How much is the fetal tissue industry driving the abortion debate?

The following is a news analysis

  • Those who utilize fetal tissue and cells for commercial purposes include pharmaceutical companies and government agencies
  • Fetal tissue has been used for vaccine development since the 1930s (CNN)
  • Taxpayer money has long funded research using aborted fetal tissue (Scientific American)
  • In 2000, one company listed the price it would pay for a fetal brain as $999 (ABC News 20/20)

According to many polls, Americans remain firmly divided on the questions surrounding abortion.

Is abortion a Constitutional right? Or a matter left up to the states?

Should abortion be outlawed entirely? Only after a certain point? Or not at all?

There’s another question that’s been raised in the past, but is seemingly not discussed as much today.

Those in media and politics who advocate for abortion (or as few of restrictions as possible) often use similar language and tactics as pharmaceutical industry interests used during Covid and related vaccine-related issues. So how much of the current abortion discussion is driven by the pharmaceutical industry and others — such as government research institutions — who have a commercial interest in purchasing and/or using aborted fetuses and fetal tissue?

The fetal tissue industry and alleged abuses were examined in an investigative report by ABC News 20/20 and Chris Wallace in 2000. That story is not easily found online today, but you can read a news release about the report at the end of this post.

You can read more at the links following the excerpts and quotes below.

…the price list for one company, Opening Lines, includes listings of $325 for a spinal cord, $550 for a reproductive organ, $999 for a brain.

ABC News 20/20, March 8, 2000

…fetal tissue research is legal, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been funding it for decades.

Scientific American, Dec. 9, 2015

Fetal tissue has been used since the 1930s for vaccine development… Researchers typically take tissue samples from a fetus that has been aborted…Many of the uses of fetal tissue – and much of the debate – are not new. ‘It’s just that the public is finding out about it,’ said Insoo Hyun, associate professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University…the ways that fetal tissue are allowed to be obtained and used are not new either, Hyun said. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released guidelines on the topic in the 1990s.

CNN, July 17, 2015

The following is the text of a press release issued on Monday, March 6, 2000, by ABC News 20/20 in New York.


A three-month “20/20” hidden-camera investigation has uncovered an industry in which tissue and organs from aborted fetuses, donated to help medical research, are being marketed for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars.

“20/20” has investigated one businessman whose company issued a price list charging what many call exorbitant prices for fetal tissue. In addition, ABC News “20/20” chief correspondent Chris Wallace has an exclusive interview with a whistle-blower who says two tissue retrieval companies he worked for went so far as to, on some occasions, encourage him to take fetal tissue obtained from women who had not consented to donate their fetuses to medical research. The report will air on “20/20 Wednesday,” March 8 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.

Many say that fetal tissue is vital in scientific research that may provide dramatic medical breakthroughs, and federal law permits the donation of tissue from aborted fetuses for that purpose. But the law says companies that transport fetal tissue to medical research labs may only charge a reasonable fee to recover costs of collecting and shipping human tissue. “20/20’s” investigation found some companies are charging high fees — fees that critics say are not based on recovering costs; for example, the price list for one company, Opening Lines, includes listings of $325 for a spinal cord, $550 for a reproductive organ, $999 for a brain.

How are these prices determined? One “20/20” producer went undercover as a potential investor to meet Dr. Miles Jones, a Missouri pathologist whose company, Opening Lines, obtains fetal tissue from clinics and ships it to research labs. “It’s market force,” Dr. Jones told the producer about how he sets his prices. “It’s what you can sell it for.” He says he hopes to run his own abortion clinic in Mexico where he says he could get a greater supply of fetal tissue by offering cheaper abortions: “If you control the flow — it’s probably the equivalent of the invention of the assembly line.”

“That’s trading in body parts. There’s no doubt about it,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics.

Representative Thomas Bliley (R-VA), who chairs the United States House Commerce Committee, says his committee is now investigating four companies after finding evidence they may be selling tissue for a profit. He says the committee is interested in ensuring that people transporting fetal tissue only recover their legitimate costs. “It appears that it’s more than that. That it comes down to trafficking in tissue parts,” he tells Mr. Wallace. Rep. Bliley’s committee expects to hold hearings on this issue later this week. [Note: The House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and the Environment has scheduled a hearing on Thursday, March 9, [2000] at 2 p.m., on the subject, “Fetal Tissue: Is It Being Bought and Sold in Violation of Federal Law?”]

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5 thoughts on “How much is the fetal tissue industry driving the abortion debate?”

  1. If you stand for “UNTOUCHABLE SUBJECTS. FEARLESS, NONPARTISAN REPORTING,” how about you report on Dinesh D’’Souza’ new documentary, “2000 Miles.”
    Tell me, after seeing it, you can live with yourself knowing the 2020 election was a voter fraud coup. .

  2. there’s a special place that will be prepared in hell for those who profit from the murder and mutilation of their fellow human beings. there is no justification for such monstrous and heinous actions. The most evil and vile Nazis or any other assorted pack of evil doers has nothing on these people.

  3. Why no mention of the very high profile case of David Delaiden and the undercover investigation by the Center for Medical Progress on Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue? On top of that you had Kamala Harris prosecuting him as CA attorney General, while taking money from PP for her senatorial campaign.

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