Indiana won a victory last week when a federal court reversed a decision blocking the state from banning the use of aborted baby body parts in research.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a lower court decision that found the law to be unconstitutionally vague, the AP reports.
The 2016 law prohibits anyone from intentionally acquiring, receiving, selling or transferring fetal tissue, punishable by a level five felony. Indiana also requires that aborted babies’ bodies be cremated or buried. The Trustees of Indiana University sued to overturn the 2016 law, claiming it infringed on the university’s First Amendment academic freedoms.
U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson agreed and blocked the law, but the Seventh Circuit reversed her decision last week.
“The district court … held that the words ‘acquires,’ ‘receives,’ and ‘transfers,’ and the phrase ‘any other part,’ are too uncertain to have legal force,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in the decision, acquired by Courthouse News. “If that is right, then big chunks of the legal system are invalid, because those words are ubiquitous in statutes, regulations, and judicial opinions.”
University officials had sued the prosecutors in Marion and Monroe counties three years ago, claiming researchers could face prison terms for violating that law as they pursued their various research projects.
Courthouse News reported one professor “has been using fetal tissue in his research since 2011 as a control to understand differences between and healthy and unhealthy brains.”
University officials claimed it was a violation of the First Amendment.
The Seventh Circuit disagreed with the claim. It also ruled that the university cannot sue the state, writing: “The university, as part of Indiana, is not entitled to sue its own state. Indiana’s legislature is free to decide what use (including none) to make of Indiana’s property.”
The justices also responded to the university’s claims that “a fetus is not a person” by pointing to the ethical debate surrounding the issue.
“That does not eliminate the possibility of serious debate about when, if at all, it is ethical to perform medical experiments on aborted fetal tissue,” they wrote.
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Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter praised the ruling in a statement.
“We applaud the Seventh Circuit for upholding Indiana’s right to block the use of tissue from aborted babies for experimental purposes,” Fichter said. “This law affirms the dignity and humanity of aborted children by preventing their body parts and tissue from being trafficked and exchanged as material for ghoulish experiments.”
Indiana lawmakers moved to prohibit the trafficking of aborted baby body parts in 2016 after undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress exposed an aborted baby body parts scandal at Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities.
Not long after the university filed its lawsuit, Indiana Right to Life informed LifeNews.com that it had confirmed Indiana University purchased brains from aborted babies from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington.
In an op-ed in the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel in 2015, six doctors explained why using fetal “tissue” for research is unethical and unnecessary for scientists.
“The argument that fetal-derived tissues must be used in research to develop medical treatments is false,” they wrote. “Many therapies have been developed using cell lines not of fetal origin, including insulin for diabetes (produced in bacteria), Herceptin for breast cancer and tissue plasminogen activator for heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism (both developed in Chinese hamster ovary cells).”
The Indiana law also is facing a challenge from Planned Parenthood.