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Maryland firm stops selling body parts from abortions

A decision by a Maryland company to stop procuring and distributing body parts obtained from aborted fetuses is drawing praise from pro-life supporters who had protested the practice as abhorrent and inhumane.

The Anatomic Gift Foundation, based in Laurel, announced in late December it would “no longer procure or provide human tissue derived from elective pregnancy terminations for research and education.”

State Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Republican representing the district where the company is located, said he was “very pleased” with the company’s decision and hopes that it does not change that stand.

“If the reports of what they were doing are true, I felt what they were doing was horrendous,” Madden said.

Before the company announced its change in policy, Madden had said he was preparing a letter to Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran Jr. to determine if the procurement and distribution of fetal parts was legal in Maryland.

Raymond Szyperski, a parishioner of the Church of the Resurrection in Laurel and chairman of the board for Pro-life Maryland, was one of dozens of protesters who had regularly picketed outside the company’s headquarters.

He thinks the protesters’ constant presence, along with expected inquiries into the company’s practices by Congress, influenced the company to change its policy.

“I’m extremely happy,” he said. “We were able to make people aware of the shameful things that were going on there.”

The trafficking in fetal tissue by the Maryland company first came to light when Life Dynamics, a Texas-based pro-life organization, conducted an investigation in April 1997.

In its statement, the Anatomic Gift Foundation acknowledged that it has dealt in body parts from abortions in the past. The tissue is used in research into diseases like AIDS, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, according to the statement.

“Although AGF’s primary function is to procure tissue specimens from adult cadavers, a small percentage of tissues were derived from elective pregnancy termination procedures,” the statement said.

The organization contends that its procurement of fetal tissue was legal. The reason it changed its policy, according to the statement, was because it did not have the resources to “mount a defense” against the charges of “certain extremists.”

Patricia B. Kelly, associate director for justice, pro-life and human rights for the Maryland Catholic Conference, said she was thrilled with the company’s turnabout, but warned that there are other companies around the country that continue to traffic in fetal parts.

“If profit is going on, it’s definitely happening at other places,” Kelly said. “It will be difficult to track down because they won’t be open about it.”

Email George Matysek at gmatysek@CatholicReview.org

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