Sixty-five Minnesota state legislators have called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and also want to know whether the University of Minnesota is involved in procuring fetal organs for research purposes.
Alpha News inquired about human fetal tissue research at the University, and Evan Lapiska, Director of Public Relations, confirmed that the University conducts no studies using fetal tissue. The University does allow for researchers to conduct such studies and has a stated policy for conducting human fetal tissue transplantation research and procedures outlined for institutional review.
The University of Minnesota has been at the forefront of ethical debates about the use of fetal tissue for decades. In 1992, when there was a moratorium in place prohibiting federal dollars from being used for human fetal tissue research from elective abortions, the University was one of only five selected to establish a “fetal tissue bank” which would derive tissue solely from miscarriages prior to 20 weeks gestation. But in 1993, the ban was lifted by President Bill Clinton, and the center was dissolved.
The National Institutes for Health database shows $76 million in grants last year to conduct human fetal tissue research. Federal dollars went to large universities like the University of North Carolina, University of California Irvine, and Yale University. There was one study in the state of Minnesota that came up in a search of this database, conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester which received $690,000 in NIH grants in 2013 and 2014 for a study under the human fetal tissue category. But the source of the fetal tissue, and whether it was harvested or not, is unclear based on the project’s abstract.
On Monday, the Star Tribune ran a commentary from Dr. Stephen Miles, a professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota, defending the use of fetal tissue research. The commentary stated: “It is safe to obtain fetal tissue during an abortion. I find no study showing any increased risk to women from donating a fetus to science. I cannot find one case report of a woman being injured or dying during an abortion because a fetus was collected for research during an abortion.”
Research using human fetal tissue is legal, as long as there is no profit being made from the sale of the organs, but the ethics involved remain questionable. High level doctors with Planned Parenthood, on videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, are shown discussing the alteration of abortion procedures in order to collect the best tissue and organ samples. Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota issued a statement stating that “PPMNS does not currently engage in any tissue donation for research.”
Governor Dayton, a longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood, has already rejected any state investigation of the organization.