Lawmakers Eye Fetal Tissue Research : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Lawmakers Eye Fetal Tissue Research

By JANELLE CARTER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON--A former abortion clinic employee Republicans hoped would buttress allegations that fetal tissue is being sold illegally instead confessed to lawmakers Thursday he had made inconsistent statements about the issue. Lawrence Dean Alberty's appearance before the House Commerce health and environment subcommittee had been widely anticipated, particularly after a national television broadcast on alleged problems with fetal tissue laws. Anti-abortion lawmakers have expressed concern that some tissue retrieval companies are illegally charging exorbitant prices to make a profit from the procedure. One pathologist who bragged of the profitability of fetal tissue before a hidden camera on Wednesday's episode of ABC's "20/20" did not respond to a subpoena from the House panel to testify Thursday. Alberty, of Lee's Summit, Mo., did appear and was questioned under oath. He said he had no knowledge of a profiteering scheme. In an anti-abortion group's video, he had said that such a practice existed. "Anything I said on the video when I was not under oath, that is a different story," Alberty told lawmakers. Alberty did assert, in the most dramatic part of his testimony, that doctors in the clinic would sometimes use lengthier procedures when doing abortions if it meant keeping a fetus intact. Some anti-abortion lawmakers said they will continue to push to end the use of fetuses for medical research -despite Alberty's conflicting testimony. "The issue is too big for any one person," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. "This issue is just beginning to get the airing it needs. This is just one day in this ongoing battle to stop this heinous practice." Lawmakers who support abortion rights urged caution. "If state and federal laws are not being enforced, let's do better," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. "But let us not sensationalize this issue." Under federal law, it is legal to use fetal tissue for research as long as it is donated, not sold, by the woman. Congress in 1993 lifted a ban on federally funded research using fetal tissue, but made it a felony to purchase or sell the tissue for profit. The law allows only reasonable charges to cover he cost of extracting and transferring tissue to researchers. Fetal tissue is seen as among the best hopes for finding new treatments for illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and diabetes. The complaint by anti-abortion lawmakers is that some tissue retrieval companies are charging prices as high as $325 for a spinal cord and $75 for a single eye. Committee members said they would seek contempt-of-Congress against Dr. Miles Jones, the Missouri pathologist who appeared on television, for not responding to the panel's subpoena. They also asked the Justice Department to investigate the allegations raised on the show. Many researchers urged Congress not to ban fetal tissue research. "I am concerned that in attempting to enforce the laws governing fetal tissue research ... Congress may unnecessarily over-restrict fetal tissue research," said Dr. Samuel M. Cohen, a University of Nebraska Medical Center pathologist. "This would be a grave mistake." - - - On the Net: House Commerce Committee.

-- cin (, March 10, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ