University of Minnesota accused of using fetal tissue illegally

| October 19, 2016 | 6 Comments
Erick Kaardal of Minneapolis-based Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., serving as special counsel for the Thomas More Society, announced the lawsuit filed against the University of Minnesota Oct. 19 due to the school’s use of aborted fetal tissue from other states. Courtesy Rick Bush/Pro-Life Action Ministries

Erick Kaardal of Minneapolis-based Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., serving as special counsel for the Thomas More Society, announced the lawsuit filed against the University of Minnesota Oct. 19 due to the school’s use of aborted fetal tissue from other states. Courtesy Rick Bush/Pro-Life Action Ministries

 A Chicago-based nonprofit law firm charged the University of Minnesota Oct. 19 for illegal use of aborted fetuses in its research practices.

The Thomas More Society, which focuses on pro-life cases, filed a petition in the Fourth District Court of Hennepin County. The firm acted on behalf of St. Paul-based Pro-Life Action Ministries and University of Minnesota graduate student Bridget Busacker.

“The petition basically says to the Hennepin County District Court, ‘By what authority does the University of Minnesota violate Minnesota’s law prohibiting transplantation research on the remains of aborted fetuses,’” said Attorney Erick Kaardal of Minneapolis-based Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., who served as a special counsel for the Thomas More Society in the petition. Kaardal said Minnesota statute 145.1621 requires certain treatment of aborted fetuses.

According to a medical research policy on the university’s website, the Anatomy Bequest Program will not “obtain tissue from abortions performed in Minnesota.” Earlier, the policy stated that the ABP can obtain tissue from entities “outside Minnesota that operate in compliance with federal law and applicable state laws.”

Brian Gibson, director of Pro-Life Action Ministries, said that the university could use donated fetal remains from miscarriages instead, which would create a medically ethical situation.

“That way, those who are involved in this process can freely and openly give permissions properly so that there isn’t the commodification of the human remains,” Gibson said.

The university’s medical school conducts research in major areas such as cancer, bone and marrow transplant, immunology, cardiology and neuroscience. But advancements and positive outcomes cannot justify breaking the law, Gibson said.

“The question isn’t whether research is good or bad at all,” he said.

Kaardal echoed Gibson’s claim.

“That was a circumvention,” he said. “Here you have the University of Minnesota Medical Center, their research staff and their lawyers circumventing the law. We can’t have a university that has a law school openly and notoriously violating the law.”

The university’s use of aborted fetal tissue became public in September 2015 when the Center for Medical Progress in California released one of its undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials and affiliates discussing the sale of body parts from aborted fetuses. Gibson requested a Freedom of Information Act to obtain university documents regarding use of the aborted fetal tissue. He obtained invoices showing the university purchased fetal tissue from other states.

“No matter where you get the bodies from, it’s still illegal to be doing this in Minnesota,” Gibson said.

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  • Michael Anderson

    Junk journalism and trash story. Did the editors of The Catholic Spirit take the time to fact check or was the visual and the headline just too tempting to pass up? Looking up and reading the entire text of Mn Statute 145.1621 took me less than five minutes.

    The statute provides for the proper disposal of fetal remains and in none of its sections is fetal research prohibited. There is one rather vague reference to limitations on”medical testing.”

    The University of Minnesota has an outstanding record of medical research and conducts research on human tissues, embryonic and otherwise under strict ethical standards. I went to medical school there. Based on my experience, the University likely wanted to avoid even the appearance of conflict with Minnesota law and decided to acquire its research fetal tissues from legitimate sources outside the state. By the way, the statute is “public nuisance” one–hardly an earth shaking Pro-life v. Pro-choice cage match. The contrived lawsuit is the only public nuisance in question.

    • Carol Tauer

      Thanks for clarifying state law. Federal law is also easily accessible, Public Law 103-43, Sec. 498A, “Research on Transplantation of Fetal Tissue.” Nothing in this law would prohibit the research at the University of Minnesota.

    • Raster

      The statute says the hospital, etc. “MAY” test the remains prior to disposal “for purposes of a criminal investigation or determination
      of parentage prior to disposing of the remains.” There is no allowance for any other kind of testing. The Catholic Spirit presented a factual rendition of the story, you either fail to comprehend or don’t wish to deal with the facts.

      • Michael Anderson

        That’s not the way the law works. Under our system, in general, what is not prohibited is allowed. “Allowed” is not even the correct word. “Free to do” is more like it. We do not live our lives with the permission of the state . When the state regulates, it does so on our behalf, and must do so with specificity. When journalists and editors publish, they should do so with specificity . When legislators create laws, they should do so with specificity . When they do not, it leaves room for people to see whatever they want to see .

  • Houtex77

    Will Garrison Keeler keel over?

    • Michael Anderson

      No. The Mark Twain side of his personality loves it ????