Bioethics News

Panel on infant lives meets in Washington

Professor G. Kevin Donovan of Georgetown University testifying before the Panel

The US Senate Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives met for the first time last week, in a heated session that saw several experts testify against the procurement of fetal tissue for research. The panel was convened following the release of several videos apparently capturing Planned Parenthood employees negotiating the sale of tissue to private research firms.

Tensions on the panel were evident even before testimony began. Democrat and Republican representatives clashed over the subpoenaing of the names of researchers, technicians and medical personnel working in a select number of abortion clinics.

Referring to a shooting late last year at a clinic in Colorado, Democratic representative Jan Schakowsky said, “Linking individual’s names to an investigation that the Republicans describe as examining the ‘harvesting of baby body parts’ and the ‘horrific practices’ of abortion providers puts people in danger”. The chair of the committee, Republican Marsha Blackburn, replied that  the panel is “entitled to the information,” and a Democratic motion to quash the three subpoenas issued thus far was defeated on a party-line vote.

Bioethicists and scientists with a variety of perspectives appeared before the panel.

Professor G. Kevin Donovan of Georgetown’s Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics said that said that tissue might be harvested from spontaneous miscarriages, thus avoiding the moral implications of using aborted fetuses. “If we cannot act with moral certainty regarding the appropriate respect and dignity of the fetus, we cannot morally justify its destruction. Alternatives clearly exist that are less controversial, and moral arguments exist that support our natural abhorrence at the trafficking of human fetal parts.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.