MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Concern and controversy over the use of fetal tissue for medical research at the University of Minnesota now appears headed to district court.
The Thomas More Society on Wednesday filed a petition in Hennepin County District Court charging the University with breaking a 1987 Minnesota law.
As a medical research institution, the University engages in a wide range of cutting edge science — research intended on finding breakthroughs to cure cancers, paralysis and other diseases. And some of those research studies can only be accomplished through the use of fetal cell tissue.
Standing outside the U of M medical center, attorney Erick Kaardal proclaimed, “this is an historic day.”
Kaardal represents right-to-life groups who are critical of the university’s use of fetal tissue in research. They are now leveling serious allegations, claiming the university is breaking state law by circumventing Minnesota’s fetal disposal law by purchasing tissue from out of state.
“[The university] amended the rule and said ‘No, we’re not going to use aborted remains of fetuses here in Minnesota, but we can buy them from out of state. We can go to California and buy fetal remains and do the transplantation research here,'” Kaardal said.
The lengthy court petition includes exhibits of university purchase orders on fetal tissue ordered from a California lab. One such exhibit shows that Advanced Bioscience Resources, of Alameda was paid $175 for fetal pancreatic tissue.
The University’s recently revised policy on fetal tissue research bans payment for anything other than the shipping, preservation and processing costs of that tissue. In addition, it strictly prohibits researchers’ use of any tissue that comes from aborted fetuses. Further, any proposed fetal tissue research must first have the approval of the Institutional Review Board.
Petitioners maintain that university researchers are in violation of the school’s own fetal tissue policy.
“The University of Minnesota, by violating this law, is desecrating those human bodies and engaging in the commodification of aborted babies,” Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries Brian Gibson said.
The University says it hasn’t seen the lawsuit so can’t comment on specifics, but in a written statement said:
“The University’s Board of Regents and administration have worked previously to resolve this issue in a thoughtful and sensitive way that respects the principles of academic freedom and that is consistent with state and federal law. In fact, the Board and administration obtained a thorough legal analysis of whether the University can conduct research utilizing fetal tissue in compliance with state and federal law. This included a review from independent, external counsel affirming that it does. The University remains committed to ensuring our faculty have the ability to conduct legal research in a legal and ethical manner to advance human understanding and create new knowledge. We also remain committed to doing so consistent with all applicable law.”