University of Minnesota Accused of Illegally Using Aborted Baby Parts for Research

State   |   Tom Ciesielka   |   Oct 19, 2016   |   7:18PM   |   St. Paul, MN

Today Thomas More Society attorneys filed a petition in the Fourth Judicial District of Minnesota in Hennepin County, charging the University of Minnesota with illegally procuring and using human fetal tissue for research. The university has a policy in place that obtains fetal tissue from out of state, circumventing the Minnesota legislature’s intended restrictions.

The filing lawyers, along with the petitioners, including a graduate student and concerned citizens, held a press conference to address the violations connected to the university’s research on tissue transplantation.

According to Erick Kaardal, special counsel for the Thomas More Society and partner at Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., “The University of Minnesota is not exempt from state legislation. How can you trust the research of an institution that condones illegal action? The school and its research department must be held accountable for placing themselves above the law.”

The filed petition in Pro-Life Action Ministries, Incorporated, Brian Gibson and Bridget Busacker v. Regents of the University of Minnesota states:

  • The University of Minnesota does not have authority to implement its administrative policy for “procuring and using human fetal tissue for transplantation research” when Minnesota law limits fetal tissue testing to only allow determining parentage prior to burial, for purposes of a criminal investigation, or for the health of the baby’s mother or her future offspring.
  • The University of Minnesota is violating Minnesota fetal tissue research law (as stated in Minnesota statute 145.1621).
  • The University of Minnesota policy allowing the testing of human fetal tissue from out-of-state for transplantation research is preempted by Minnesota law.
  • The Court should issue a writ enjoining the University of Minnesota’s administrative policy for “procuring and using human fetal tissue for transplantation research” as an ongoing violation of Minnesota law.

The state law limits tissue procurement to that obtained from miscarried or stillborn babies. Even if the university obtains body parts from another state, they are still subject to Minnesota regulations. Despite the revelation of these illegal practices, the publicly funded university continues to usurp the state’s authority.

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The petition also notes that even if the university procures the remains of a human fetus from outside the state, the delivery of the human fetus or fetal tissue to Minnesota immediately subjects the fetal remains and tissue to Minnesota law.

Bridget Busacker, a graduate student at the university and petitioner in the case, said, “The actions that the university has taken in response to its use of fetal tissue for research is appalling and disappointing to me. I selected the University of Minnesota because of its reputation and determination to uphold standards that respect the community. I feel that the university has let me and my peers down – not to mention the school’s fans, supporters, and Minnesota taxpayers. To promote our institution as Driven to Discover and then to defy the law in this way calls the integrity of the entire research program into question. How can we be world class if we are breaking the law?”

Additionally, the university has not cooperated in resolving the issue, according to the Congressionally-released “Interim Update to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Chairman and Majority Members of the Select Investigative Panel on The Transfer of Fetal Tissue and Related Matters,” which states:

  • “The university had initially denied to journalists that fetal tissue research occurred on campus, but after a news outlet uncovered receipts of fetal tissue purchases, its spokespeople reversed course and admitted that such research had taken place.”
  • “Following public disclosure of its practices, the university continues to procure fetal tissue, but it changed its policy to require such tissue to come from sources outside Minnesota and to provide for its disposal in the same way as donated human cadavers. The institution’s decision to cross state lines to procure fetal tissue appears to be an effort to avoid criminal liability under law.”

Brian Gibson, Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries, remarked, “Part of what makes this case such an affront to the public is that in July 2015 the University of Minnesota expressly denied doing fetal tissue research on aborted babies. After the truth was exposed in September 2015 by the Center for Medical Progress and confirmed by multiple news outlets, the university is still behaving as if it is above the law.” He also noted that the school has blatantly ignored Minnesota law and public outcry by citizens and students.

The Thomas More Society’s filing notes that because the university’s actions are unauthorized, any public funds involved have been misused. Also, the petition states that the university regents have overstepped their jurisdiction in superseding Minnesota’s legislative decisions.