Hailed as a “research breakthrough,” biotech company Ganogen, Inc. in Redwood City, California has recently harvested kidneys from aborted babies and transplanted them into lab rats. This new development, reported by Live Science, seems eerily right out of a science fiction movie.
While medical advances in organ transplantation have saved lives, how far will we go as a society — both ethically and morally — to further organ donation? Ending a developing life to sustain another begins to resemble playing god.
Photo: IAVI / Flickr
The goal of Ganogen researchers is to transplant fetal organs into a rat, where the organ could grow to a larger size, and then be transplanted into a human patient in need of a kidney. The process is known as Xenotransplantation. The research study seeks “to grow human organs in animals, to end the human donor shortage,” according to Ganogen founder Eugene Gu.
The use of animals in human organ development raises questions for some, yet even the researchers realize the use of aborted babies’ fetal organs for medical research raises much bigger questions. Eugene Go tried to head off ethical objections during a Reddit Q&A.
“We used organs from 17-week gestation human fetuses obtained from abortion procedures,” Gu stated in the online forum. “It is definitely a complicated ethical question, but one way to view it is that we do not encourage abortions in any shape or form. If we did not use these organs, they would either be thrown into the trash or, more likely, used by other researchers to answer different types of questions.”
The Ganogen founder outlined how aborted babies are “used extremely frequently throughout all of science and industry.” Bound4LIFE’s investigative series Industry of Death is one of many exposés on this deadly practice.
Photo: Lenny Flank / Flickr
“If human fetal tissues are going to be either a.) thrown into the trash, b.) used for basic science research, or even c.) used to research flavor enhancers, then it is perhaps the most appropriate to use them to directly save the life of another baby or child on the transplant waiting list,” Gu said to justify his research. “In this sense, we do not believe there are any ethical issues with our quest to save patient lives.”
Ganogen’s website shares a video about this breakthrough research and calls this human-to-animal transplantation “organ engineering.” But what the video fails to reveal is that for every organ that is grown and donated, an unborn baby has to die.
Registered nurse and pro-life advocate Jill Stanek remarked to CNS News, “It is easy to see where this is heading: toward the day when human beings will be grown in the lab specifically for organ and tissue harvesting. This is horrific on so many levels.”
Aside from these ethical questions, this research exposes an obvious moral question — specifically, about abortion.
In the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court made “fetal viability” an important term in its decision. Regarding the courts policies on later abortions, the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute states, “a woman’s right to an abortion is not absolute; states may restrict or ban abortions after fetal viability, provided that their policies meet certain requirements.”
These requirements include the physical and mental health of the mother as well as fetal viability. The Guttmacher Institute outlines 42 states that prohibit some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy: 18 states impose restrictions after a certain amount of gestation weeks and 10 states ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation.
How is the Ganogen study related to fetal viability?
The moral dilemma many ignore in this research is that these organs are harvested from growing human babies who are aborted. The organs have all the capabilities of being sustained for human life (even animal life), except for the fact that life has been terminated purposefully — not accidentally, as in typical child or adult donor transplantations.
The organs used in the Ganogen research were already viable or capable of developing and growing. How does the court make a distinction between fetal viability if fetal organs, at various stages of gestation, are harvested and given the capability of life outside the baby’s body?
Have we become a society where a human baby’s organs are now a commodity greater than the baby’s life itself? Pro-abortion advocates often ignore the obvious regarding a baby in the womb. They use words like fetus or tissue to distract from the truth surrounding a pre-born baby’s development.
The fact is that the organs and body systems of a developing baby in the womb are fully formed at 12 weeks. Many states ban abortions after the 20-week mark based on fetal viability — but if fetal organs are capable of being sustained and viable as early as 17 weeks as Ganogen’s research demonstrates, shouldn’t states take into consideration the definition of fetal viability based on this type research alone?
On the company’s website they pose the question: “Would you accept an organ from a pig, cow, baboon or a chimpanzee to save your child’s life, or your own?” The real question is, would you accept that organ knowing it came, originally, from a viable human being capable of life before it was harvested?
The medical advances in donor transplants have saved countless lives. The untimely deaths of our loved ones have, at times, sustained life for someone else.
However, are we willing to let these advances cross ethical and moral lines? And are we willing to use the advances in medical research to acknowledge just what the term “fetal viability” means to the legality of abortion?