A Gory Harvest

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A Gory Harvest

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Technology has inspired and made possible a nightmarish controversy over the use of aborted embryonic and fetal parts in medical research. World magazine reports that researchers can even place orders for body parts: "Most researchers want parts harvested from fetuses 18 to 24 weeks in utero, which means the largest babies lying in lab pans awaiting a blade would stretch 10 to 12 inches—from your wrist to your elbow. Some researchers append a subtle 'plus' sign to the '24,' indicating that parts from late-term babies would be acceptable. Many stipulate 'no abnormalities,' meaning the baby in question should have been healthy prior to having her life cut short by 'intrauterine cranial compression' (crushing of the skull)" (Lynn Vincent, "The Harvest of Abortion," World, Oct. 23, 1999, pp. 16-19). Although some medical researchers claim they are merely making the best of a bad situation, with the high demand for fetal tissue the moral implications are dismaying. "Ironically, it is the babies themselves who are referred to as 'donors,' as though they had some say in the matter. Such semantic red flags—and a phalanx of others—have bioethicists hotly debating the issue of fetal tissue research: Does the use of the bodies of aborted children for medical research amount to further exploitation of those who are already victims? "Will the existence of fetal-tissue donation programs persuade more mothers that abortion is an acceptable, even altruistic, option? Since abortion is legal and the human bodies are destined to be discarded anyway, does it all shake out as a kind of ethical offset, mitigating the abortion holocaust with potential good?" (same source). Some biomedical research companies circulate brochures showing what they will pay for aborted body parts. One such list in World offered the following: Spinal column $150. Spinal cord $325. Limbs (at least two) $150. Eyes $75 ($50 if older than eight weeks). Brain $999 (if up to eight weeks old; 30 percent less if significantly fragmented). The human condition being as it is, we may soon see the day when people will put in orders for needed tissue, women seeking abortions will be contacted or even impregnated, and at the suitable time the unborn child will be aborted for medical use by another human being. The reasoning that medical researchers are just making the best of a bad situation rings hollow. GN