A three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on June 7, 2018 in an appeal of a lower court’s dismissal of a taxpayer lawsuit that charged the University of Minnesota with illegally procuring and using human fetal tissue for research. The fetal tissue consisted of body parts that had been harvested from aborted babies. The university had adopted a policy that authorized its researchers to obtain and use fetal tissue from outside of the state, thereby purporting to circumvent the restrictions on using aborted fetal remains that had been enacted by the Minnesota legislature.
Attorney Erick Kaardal, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, explained that Minnesota law makes it a “gross misdemeanor” to procure or use aborted human fetal tissue in most cases, and that the University of Minnesota had sought to dodge that prohibition by using out-of-state providers.
The lawsuit charges the university with being “engaged in a continuous unauthorized usurpation of authority,” and the plaintiff, Pro-Life Action Ministries of St. Paul (PLAM), had urged the court to require the school to explain and prove how it did not violate the state’s fetal tissue research law by procuring fetal remains from outside of Minnesota.
Kaardal commented, “I really appreciated the appellate judges’ attention to detail at the oral argument, held on June 7th. The University of Minnesota had argued that a recent law, enacted in 2017, had carved out a special exemption from Minnesota’s 1987 legal ban on post-embryonic fetal tissue testing and research. However, the 2017 law does not support the university’s position. Instead, the university, just like the rest of us, has had to follow and abide by Minnesota’s 1987 ban. The actual purpose of the 2017 law was to require the university to annually report to the state legislature as to its fetal tissue testing—both legal and illegal. With this information provided annually by the university, the state legislature could better monitor and manage the university’s fetal tissue testing—a result that is good for all Minnesotans because of the serious ethical issues involved.”
The lawsuit contends that the University of Minnesota, as a public institution that receives taxpayer money, has “used public funds for improper and unauthorized purposes.”
The initial discovery of this suspected illegal activity was made by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). This non-profit, pro-life organization, based in California, had gained national attention when its founder, David Daleiden, an undercover investigator and journalist, exposed Planned Parenthood’s and other abortionists’ role in the alleged trafficking of aborted baby body parts. CMP’s investigators and videos revealed that University of Minnesota procured human fetal tissue from Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc. (ABR) of Alameda, California. Additionally, it was acknowledged that ABR obtained tissue from induced abortions at clinics throughout the country.
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The University of Minnesota has a recently-revised administrative policy for “procuring and using human fetal tissue for transplantation research” that purports to allow its researchers “to procure human fetal tissue from other out-of-state organizations or clinics.” However, according to PLAM’s lawsuit, this policy is in violation of Minnesota law prohibiting the scientific study of fetal remains, except in cases where used to “protect the life or health” of the mother or unborn child, to procure evidence in a criminal investigation, or to determine parentage.
The university argued that a 2017 state law “allowed them to do the research on aborted fetal remains,” as long as the researchers obtained written permission from the state’s Fetal Tissue Research Committee. Kaardal, however, declared that argument to be “completely inconsistent with what the law says,” explaining that the new statute does not negate or neutralize the existing law against buying or selling aborted fetal tissue.
Kaardal also pointed out that while the university disposed of the fetal remains as “biohazardous waste,” state law stipulates that they are to be disposed of by cremation, burial, or “in a manner directed by the commissioner of health.”