The most expensive item on the shopping list, at $515, was an “intact calvarium” (a human skull) of a preborn baby, age 18 to 24 weeks. Baby livers were listed at $340 each. The seller, California-based Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR), even had the courtesy to list shipping options for the customer (in this case the Federal Drug Administration) including overnight FedEx for $50, and the choice of snap (liquid nitrogen) freezing at $40 per specimen or passive (dry ice) freezing at $80 per specimen.1
There’s a lot more wrong here than the gut punch you get reading a catalogue of aborted baby parts as if they were office supplies or other products available on Amazon. Would you like to add to your cart or proceed to checkout?
The effort that government watchdog Judicial Watch had to exert to wrest from the FDA and National Institutes of Health the shopping list and other stomach-churning documents—public information under federal law—is perhaps the least disturbing part of the story. Attorney Meredith DiLiberto filed FOIA requests in 2018. The documents Judicial Watch first received were so heavily redacted they were unintelligible. The group sued, and in March 2021, Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, siding with Judicial Watch, ordered the turnover of names of laboratories that had contracted with ABR, and the unit pricing information of the fetal tissues on offer in what he described in his opinion as “this bloody business.”2
In an interview for this article, DiLiberto noted that she is used to dealing with government resistance to transparency. What shocked her, and coworkers who also read the less redacted documents, was the “cavalier” attitude taken by government and ABR employees in discussing the bloody business. “Some of us reviewing the documents had to get up and walk away at times,” she told me. “I’ve had nightmares about it.”
One exchange between ABR procurement manager Perrin Larton and FDA research veterinary medical official Dr. Kristina Howard reads like a sick parody of a dialogue in a B-horror movie. In an August 26, 2015, email Howard wrote: “As always, we are requesting liver and thymus for each date.” Larton answered: “I’ll put you on the schedule for your requested tissue delivery dates.” Howard replied: “Thanks Perrin! Btw, are you planning to attend the humanized mouse workshop in Zurich in January?” Larton wrote back: “Yes. Linda and I will both be attending. Will we see you there?” Howard replied: “Assuming the gov’t allows me to go, I will be there. I have lots of data!”3
DiLiberto explained that Judicial Watch’s FOIA campaign first targeted third parties—like ABR—on the procurement side of the fetal trafficking business. These companies were identified on videotapes of Planned Parenthood officials discussing aborted-baby parts that were secretly recorded by undercover reporters with the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The tapes, released in 2015, were the subject of extensive U.S. House and Senate hearings over the next two years. These led to some reforms under the Trump Administration—many of which have been reversed under Biden.4 (More on that later.)
Even more disturbing revelations came to light when CMP’s founder David Daleiden (who is still battling legal action over the tapes brought by then California Attorney General Kamala Harris) approached Judicial Watch for help in obtaining information about a financial arrangement the University of Pittsburgh had with the National Institutes of Health, the money source for most of the fetal experimentation that takes place in research centers all over the country. “In one FOIA, David received limited feedback, and [in response to] the other he received nothing after a year,” DiLiberto said. (Federal law requires government agencies to respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days.)
In April 2021, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit and, as reported by Fox News, uncovered this gruesome scheme: In its NIH proposal for funding, the university wrote that it wanted to “develop a pipeline to the acquisition, quality control and distribution of human genitourinary samples [urinary and genital organs] obtained throughout development (6-42 weeks gestation)”—40 weeks is full term. The proposal referenced a long list of organs, “including liver, heart, gonads, legs, brain, genitourinary tissues including kidneys, ureters and bladders.” The last three were the focus of a research project, known as GUDMAP, for which the university was seeking funding.5
It gets even more gruesome. Pitt also told NIH it could minimize “ischemia time . . . to ensure the highest quality biological specimens.” Ischemia time, in the words of the National Cancer Institute, “is the time a tissue, organ, or body part remains at body temperature after its blood supply has been reduced or cut off but before it is cooled or reconnected to a blood supply.” In the opinion of several OB/GYNs, some of whom have performed abortions, this means that body parts obtained at minimal ischemia time were almost certainly harvested from babies killed just before delivery—or just after.
According to Kathi Aultman, who performed abortions early in her career but is now a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), “the best way to get intact specimens is through induction.” In many abortions, she explained,
. . . especially in the second trimester, the baby is injected with digoxin to kill it but that ruins the tissue. D&E [another abortion procedure] ruins the tissue because the skull and thorax are crushed, and the baby is dismembered as the limbs are pulled through the cervical opening. So, I have to surmise that they are giving misoprostol [an induction drug] or other drugs to cause the woman to go into labor. The baby is often born alive and the organs can be immediately harvested.
Aultman said that organs may be harvested from babies aborted by D&E if digoxin is not used and if the cervix is purposely over-dilated so that the baby “accidentally” comes out fairly intact. “The abortionist runs the risk of prosecution under the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, however, if their staff reports them.” She added that yet another way to cut ischemia time would be to “intentionally do an Intact D&E [D&X or Partial-Birth Abortion] but cut the cord or inject the heart with KCI (potassium chloride) at the start of the procedure. The procedure is only illegal if performed on a living baby.” Dr. Christina Francis, who chairs AAPLOG, agreed that if Pitt is saying ischemia time starts after tissue collection, then that would mean the baby is still alive when they’re harvesting the tissue. “It’s horrific and does not constitute good science or compassionate medical care,” she told me. “As physicians, they know what they are doing,” she said. “They know what they are destroying.” Another OB/GYN, Dr. Ronna Jurow, who once worked at Planned Parenthood and identifies herself as “pro-choice,” told Fox News that, based on the statements about ischemia time in Pitt’s NIH proposal, “there’s no question” the fetus would be alive during tissue collection.
The good news is that pro-life members of Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly were outraged at the revelations. Chair of the (PA) House Health Committee, State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren), held a public hearing last May. And in a September 21 letter, nearly 100 members of Congress demanded that the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, as well as NIH, investigate the procedures that took place and possible violations of federal law, including the altering of abortion protocols to increase the harvesting of body parts [see Appendix B].
The bad news is that the DOJ was the only agency to respond, and its response, received by Oklahoma Senator Jim Lankford (one of the leads on the September letter from Congress) on October 18, read in part that “because of legal and ethical considerations, and longstanding Department of Justice policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of investigations relating to law enforcement matters.”
The DOJ’s letter, DiLiberto wrote in an email, “is what is known as a Glomar response where an agency may claim that acknowledging the existence of records (or investigations) is detrimental to its mission. It is generally used in intelligence-type situations. Using it for the Pitt situation is … unusual to say the least.”
The other bad news is that during the May hearing in the Pennsylvania House, the University of Pittsburgh dodged the panel’s questions. It sent a new hire who appeared to know little and said less in response to numerous questions concerning details of Pitt’s contract with NIH, its relationship with Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania (an OB/GYN, Beatrice Chen, is on staff at both places), and its relationship with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which performs abortions and maintains a human tissue bank.
David Daleiden, who testified at the hearing, denounced Pitt’s evasion in Newsweek: “Despite the serious questions about these experiments and Pitt’s inextricable relationship with Planned Parenthood,” he wrote, “Pitt stonewalled lawmakers with an unprepared, newly hired witness who could not answer basic questions . . . Perhaps Pitt could not send a qualified witness to defend these programs, because what takes place in them is indefensible.”
In the same article, Daleiden referenced a “nightmarish protocol” developed by a Pitt scientist “for harvesting the freshest, most pristine livers from 5-month-old aborted babies in order to isolate massive numbers of stem cells for experimental transplants.” The technique, he wrote, “calls for aborting late-term fetuses alive via labor induction, rushing them to a sterile laboratory, washing them and then cutting them open to harvest the liver.” The scientist who devised it “received $3 million from the NIH,” Daleiden wrote. At the committee hearing, the Pitt official sent to testify claimed that this experiment was done only in Italy and had ended in 2013. But Daleiden cited the results of a 2019 study that indicated baby livers were harvested in Pittsburgh using the same technique used in Italy.6
Members of Congress who signed off on the September 21 letter have an extensive list of questions they want answers to as well. But though Pitt receives state funding, it is exempt from the state’s Right-to-Know Law, as are three other universities: Penn State, Temple, and Lincoln. All four are categorized by the General Assembly as “state-related” schools. According to an official with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, which administers the Right-to-Know law, the universities are required to make some information public—salaries for instance—but little more, since the state provides only a portion of their funding.
There are means available for uncovering some of the answers. For example, the state’s auditor general could examine how Pitt spends state money, and the state attorney general could investigate whether any state laws are being violated. Pennsylvania law, for instance, forbids experimentation on a living fetus; it also requires medical workers to provide immediate care to a child born alive during an abortion.
Rep. Kathy Rapp did write to Auditor General Timothy DeFoor, a Republican, asking him to look into the matter. (A call placed to his office seeking to learn whether it will conduct an investigation was not returned.) Rapp said she would also support legislation to cut off the funding, approved each year as “non-preferred” appropriations, to the state-related schools. For Fiscal Year 2020-21 Pitt received $151.5 million from the state’s General Fund account. “This money should be going directly to the students,” Rapp said.
In the state Senate, senators Michele Brooks (R-Erie) and Judy Ward (RBlair) are circulating a co-sponsorship memo to colleagues asking them to sign onto legislation that would require both the auditor general and attorney general to investigate Pitt. And Ward said she is also looking into Pitt’s exemption from Right-to-Know, calling it “horrible.” She added that she would develop a plan of action after the first of the year.
Pitt claims it has done nothing in violation of state or federal law; it contracted with Washington, D.C., law firm Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, which promotes itself as an expert in the workings of the FDA, to perform an audit of its procedures. But the law firm’s findings, released in mid-January, indicating that everything was above board, left many “legal and ethical issues unanswered,” said David Prentice, Vice President and Research Director of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI).
“They narrowed their focus to just the University of Pittsburgh and not the source of the tissue,” Prentice said in an interview. Furthermore, Dan Bartkowiak of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, said in a statement that “astonishingly, the report reveals that there was no investigation into the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) where the aborted babies are obtained for fetal experiments at Pitt like grafting the baby’s scalp to lab rats.”
“This laughable omission should infuriate taxpayers and every decent human being,” he continued. “And there’s certainly nothing funny about this lack of transparency and the fact that human beings are having their scalps removed and transplanted onto lab rats.” Bartkowiak also noted that the report failed to cover Pitt’s reference to the minimization of ischemia time in its proposal to NIH.
Tara Sander Lee of CLI told Fox News for an article published before the release of the Pitt report that full transparency demands more. “If this were truly a transparent and timely investigation, University of Pittsburgh would hire credentialed scientists well-grounded in ethics to review their research, such as the federal Human Fetal Tissue Ethics Advisory Board, which President Biden recently disbanded,” said Lee, who serves as a senior fellow and director of life sciences at CLI. “Instead, they’ve hired a D.C. law firm to lower the cone of silence.”7
Prentice said that while Planned Parenthood and the third-party firms that act as the middlemen are making some money on the fetal-parts transactions, the real endgame driving the cover-up is the “protection of the ideology behind abortion.” “They can’t claim any gains in research, because there haven’t been any,” he said. “Fetal tissue research is antiquated and barbaric, trafficking in aborted-baby body parts for research that modern, productive science has left behind.”
Indeed, in their September 21 letter to the federal agencies, members of Congress emphasized that point: “Exploiting the body parts of aborted children for research purposes is repulsive and should stop, regardless of the outcome hoped for by researchers. Research using abortive fetal tissue is unethical, wrong, and has also been proven ineffective. Despite being used in clinical research since the 1920s, fetal tissue has not produced a single clinical treatment.”
Studies carried out by the Charlotte Lozier Institute support the letter. The “Fetal Tissue Claims Versus Facts” section of a 2020 CLI peer-reviewed scientific paper published in Issues in Law and Medicine debunks the widely disseminated myths repeated as truths (especially in the mainstream media) about medicines and therapies developed from human fetal tissue (HFT). In addition, the study describes existing alternatives that make its use in any medical research unnecessary.
An often-repeated claim, for instance, is that HFT plays an important role in the development of vaccines. The CLI study found that neither primary HFT nor fetal-derived cell lines from abortions are needed to develop vaccines. Fetal cell lines have been used to develop some vaccines, but according to the study, “even continuous cell lines and finite cell strains derived from aborted fetal tissue collected decades ago have never been the exclusive means necessary for development or production of any vaccine.” Eleven vaccines use fetal cell lines procured decades ago, but each could be produced without them. In fact, most vaccines in the U.S. today are developed without fetal cell lines. (The CLI study noted that three vaccine manufacturers in Japan have developed rubella vaccines using either rabbit kidney or quail embryo fibroblast cells.)
The study also debunks the myth of the role human fetal tissue has played in transplants, including as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The lead from a 2001 New York Times story reads: “A carefully controlled study that tried to treat Parkinson’s disease by implanting cells from aborted fetuses into patients’ brains not only failed to show an overall benefit but also revealed a disastrous side effect, scientists report.” Similarly, an article published in Nature in August 2003 was headlined “Parkinson’s transplant therapy faces setback.” Another myth is that HFT was necessary to the development of certain advanced therapies. However, the CLI study concluded, “fetal tissue is not the only means for development of such therapies, like Truvada for HIV.”
CLI’s Prentice was a member of HHS’s Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board, established under the Trump Administration. “We rejected 13 of 14 NIH applications for funding for research using fetal tissue,” he said. “The one narrowly accepted application was one where the tissue had already been procured, and was in the lab freezer.” Under Trump, NIH ended internal projects that used fetal tissue from elective abortions and established a $20 million funding opportunity “for research to develop, demonstrate, and validate experimental models that do not rely on human fetal tissue from elective abortions.”8
The Trump administration ended the FDA’s partnership with Advanced Bioscience Resources in 2018. Daleiden believes ABR should be shut down for the illegal behavior revealed in its contracts with the FDA. “The federal court has found probable cause that ABR illegally trafficked baby body parts based on the records publicly available—it’s time for these cases to be filed now and for the human trafficking of aborted infants to stop,” Daleiden told the Washington Free Beacon last September.9
Back in 2017, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into ABR based on the revelations in the CMP tapes. (The Department did not respond to an inquiry into the status of the investigation.) That same year, two California medical companies were ordered to permanently close all business operations. A local district attorney found they were “viewing body parts as a commodity and illegally selling fetal tissues for valuable consideration.”
Still, CLI has established that funding for projects using human fetal tissue continued in 2018, with an estimated $115 million spent through NIH grants to research labs. And a September 2020 CLI study, “A Policy and Funding Evaluation of Human Fetal Tissue Research,” estimated that $109 million was spent in 2019, $116 million in 2020, and that $107 million would be spent in 2021. The authors of the study found that over 50 percent of the projects rely on baby livers and thymuses from ongoing abortions. Others use eyes, brains, urinary tract tissues, intestines, hearts, gonads. Descriptions quoted in the study of some of the proposed projects include the following:
We will label green and red cone cells in human and fetal eyes using an RNA in situ hybridization technique that successfully distinguishes green and red opsin expression . . .
This proposal seeks to advance knowledge of human cerebellar development and malformations using human fetal samples and mouse models We will conduct the first in-depth analysis of normal human fetal cerebellar development from 4-23 gestational weeks.
. . . research will focus on comparisons between rat fetal testis and both mouse and human fetal testis model…
This CLI study also identified 68 academic organizations that received grants for HFT projects in 2019. The University of Washington, for instance, was funded for seven. One of them, titled “Laboratory of Developmental Biology,” supports the Birth Defects Research Laboratory, a fetal-tissue repository that routinely provides samples to other U.S. researchers. NIH has funded this project for over 50 years, to the tune of $13.8 million. Also in 2019, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill topped the list, with nearly $10 million in funding.10
It appears that human fetal tissue funding and experimentation will only increase under the Biden administration. The ethics panel that David Prentice served on is gone. And in an April 2021 statement, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra—who succeeded Kamala Harris as California Attorney General and pressed on with the Daleiden prosecution—announced that they had reversed the Trump administration restriction on using HFT for research. There were “no new ethical issues that require special review,” Becerra said. What continues is the legal and public relations war brought by the proabortion camp against the Center for Medical Progress and Daleiden. “He’s been prosecuted and persecuted,” Prentice said. When it was announced that Daleiden would testify at last May’s PA House hearings, the Women’s Law Project released this statement:
We write to urge you to condemn the House Health Committee’s irresponsible and dangerous decision to use the power and resources of the legislature to disseminate politically motivated, false and malicious accusations about abortion providers and demonize medical research.
David Daleiden, who was invited to testify before the Health Committee on May 4, 2021, was at the center of a nationwide publicity campaign to destroy Planned Parenthood by falsely accusing them of trafficking in fetal tissue in heavily edited videos.
Except that Daleiden’s videos are the real deal. In January 2019, a federal court ruled that the tapes were “authentic” and “not deceptively altered.” The court’s determination was based on a forensic study of the film commissioned by the Inspector General’s Office of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in a case that involved Texas’s ending of Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood.11
Daleiden faces multiple charges in the case initially brought by Harris, who ordered his apartment raided in March 2016. The raid came just weeks after Harris met with Planned Parenthood officials, something revealed in discovery as part of a criminal case against Daleiden. One of the charges involves a violation of California’s eavesdropping law, which Daleiden’s attorneys at the Thomas More Society (TMS), a public interest law firm based in Chicago, argue is a perverse application of the law.
The Thomas More Society’s Vice President, Peter Breen, points to an exception in the eavesdropping law that allows for secrecy if a person “reasonably believes” the recordings will show evidence of certain crimes, one of these being felony violence. Daleiden had every reason to believe that violence was being committed, not only against babies but women as well, Breen said in an earlier news story. He cited a case before Judge Christopher Hite of the San Francisco Superior Court, who in late 2019, after a preliminary hearing, dropped six of the fifteen charges that Becerra brought against Daleiden in March 2017. Hite ruled that the charges did not meet the burden of showing probable cause. “There was no rebuttal from prosecution when we presented two expert witnesses [who testified before Judge Hite] that organs, including hearts, are being harvested from live babies after failed abortions,” Breen said. “Or in some instances babies are purposely delivered alive so the organs can be harvested.”12
In response, Thomas More has targeted Kamala Harris with a civil rights lawsuit for “twisting and perverting California’s anti-eavesdropping law to persecute a citizen journalist because of his political views.” The firm has also filed a defamation lawsuit in federal court in New York challenging Planned Parenthood’s claim that Daleiden initiated a “fake” and “false” “smear campaign” against the abortion giant.13
For her part, Meredith DiLiberto says she will continue to “follow the breadcrumbs,” and through FOIA’s work to uncover the full expanse of the baby-body-parts trafficking business. Laying out the truth, she says, also means taking back control of the phrasing, the “euphemisms and obfuscations” used by the abortion industry to present this bloody business not only as a right but even as something sacred.
“In my first Human Life Issues class at Franciscan University, we were taught that verbal engineering always precedes social engineering,” DiLiberto recalls. “Telling the real story, the story the baby has no say in, will help us change that.”
1. Judicial Watch, September 17, 2021: “Docs Show Organ Trafficking Horrors” https://www. judicialwatch.org/fetal-organ-trafficking-horrors/
2. US District Court for the District of Columbia, March 11, 2021: Judicial Watch, Inc. v. United States HHS, https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp2/27/240/2346448/
3. Judicial Watch, April 1, 2021: “Judicial Watch Obtains Additional Records of FDA Purchases of Fetal Tissue for ‘Humanized Mice’ Project; Agency Wanted ‘Fresh, Shipped on Wet Ice’ Fetal Organs.” https://www.judicialwatch.org/humanized-mice-fda/
4. Selective Investigative Panel of the Energy & Commerce Committee, December 30, 2016: Final Report https://republicans-energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house. gov/files/documents/Select_Investigative_Panel_Final_Report.pdf
5. Fox News, August 11, 2021: “Doctors say Pitt statements point to possibility organs extracted from live fetuses; school denies charge,” https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pittsburgh-live-fetusorgans
7. Fox News, September 30, 2021: “University of Pittsburgh accused of ‘lowering the cone of silence’ with new fetal tissue probe,” https://www.foxnews.com/us/pittsburgh-investigation-fetaltissue-probe-cone-silence
8. Issues in Law and Medicine, Spring, 2020: “Human Tissue from Elective Abortions in Research and Medicine,” https://www.sba-list.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/SanderLeeetal-2020-HumanFetal-Tissue-from-Elective-Abortions-in-Research-and-Medicine-Science-Ethics-and-the-Law-ILMSpring2020.pdf
9. The Washington Free Beacon, September 17, 2021: “FDA Fetal Organ Purchases Violated Federal Law, Experts Say,” https://freebeacon.com/latest-news/fda-fetal-organ-purchases-violatedfederal-law-experts-say/
10. Charlotte Lozier Institute, September 11, 2020: “A Policy and Funding Evaluation of Human Fetal Tissue Research,” https://lozierinstitute.org/a-policy-and-funding-evaluation-of-human-fetaltissue-research/
11. CNSNews.com, January 23, 2019: “Federal Court: Video of Planned Parenthood Discussing Fetal Tissues Was ‘Not Deceptively Edited,’” https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/emily-ward/ federal-court-video-planned-parenthood-discussing-fetal-tissue-was-not
12. Prairie State Wire, August 24, 2020: “Thomas More defends California pro-life activists in case brought by Harris for Planned Parenthood,” https://thomasmoresociety.org/undercover-journalistdavid-daleiden-sues-planned-parenthood-kamala-harris-and-xavier-becerra/
13. Tom Brejcha, President, Thomas More Society, October 28, 2021: “9 felonies for exposing Planned Parenthood,” https://politicalemails.org/messages/503774
W. J. Kennedy is a graduate of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he studied chemistry. A conservative, he has been covering business and pro-life issues, principally as a ghostwriter, for thirty years. He now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.