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University of Pittsburgh received an NIH grant to harvest organs from, in some cases, full-term fetuses delivered alive


According to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) approved a $3.2 million grant to the University of Pittsburgh so researchers could procure and bank fetal organs taken from intact, sometimes full-term fetuses expelled during elective abortions.

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) had requested records from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) related to the University of Pittsburgh’s NIH grants, but the agency had refused to respond, so Judicial Watch sued on CMP’s behalf.

As a result, Judicial Watch was able to obtain hundreds of pages of documents related to the university’s efforts to build and stock a fetal tissue bank. The organization has since released all of those documents to the public.

In a statement summarizing what it learned about the disturbing experiments, Judicial Watch wrote:

“The aims of the project listed in the original 2015 proposal were to ‘develop a pipeline to the acquisition, quality control and distribution of human genitourinary [urinary and genital organs and functions] samples obtained throughout development (6-42 weeks gestation). … [and] generate an ongoing resource to distribute fresh developmental human genitourinary samples from various stages (6-42 weeks) to the GenitoUrinary Development Molecular Anatomy Project (GUDMAN) Atlas projects.

In its proposal, Pitt notes that it has been ‘collecting fetal tissue for over 10 years… include[ing] liver, heart, gonads, legs, brain, genitourinary tissues including kidneys, ureters and bladders.’”  

The documents also showed that Pitt researchers sought to harvest organs from at least five fetuses a week between the ages of 6 and 42 weeks gestation. Babies born as young as 24 weeks’ gestation can survive outside the womb and 42 weeks is two weeks beyond the average gestation period.

Some of the babies involved in Pitt’s experiment were born alive after induced preterm labor, according to the documents. In this case, CMP explained, “it means the fetus is being delivered while still alive and the cause of death is the removal of the organs.”

Judicial Watch further explained,”Warm ischemic time differs from cold ischemic time which refers to [the] amount of time the organ is chilled. Pitt’s statement suggests the time between the abortion and collection is minimal.”

CMP founder and project lead David Daleiden said, “The NIH grant application for just one of Pitt’s numerous experiments with aborted infants reads like an episode of ‘American Horror Story.’”

The documents also showed that Pitt researchers specifically sought minorities for its project. The grant application stated that the GUDMAP fetal harvesting program “will feature ‘Inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity’ and sets quotas of 50% white patients and aborted fetuses, and 50% minority patients and fetuses, with a full 25% of the fetuses harvested to come from Black women.” This despite the fact that “Allegheny County, the major metropolitan area from which Pitt-based abortion practices draw patients, is 80% white and only 13% Black,” according to CMP.

Daleiden and CMP’s citizen-journalists first uncovered the secret fetal organ harvesting business in 2012 during an investigation that culminated in an explosive series of videos showing Planned Parenthood and other medical industry executives negotiating prices of fetal parts and describing their harvesting techniques. Planned Parenthood and others denied the charges.

However, earlier this year, the Biden administration lifted a Trump-era ban on the use of fetal tissue in medical research and dismissed a related ethics review board, even as Judicial Watch released documents showing that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been actively funding medical experiments using fetal parts procured by Planned Parenthood and other abortionists.

For his part, Daleiden has since filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which will test the constitutionality of a Mississippi ban on all abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation and has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The way the University of Pittsburgh tells it, their plan to harvest tissues from electively aborted fetuses was done in the name of science and medicine.

The way Judicial Watch and the Center for Medical Progress tell it, the university was receiving American taxpayer funding to conduct a gory, freakish horror show.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions — no one is entitled to their own facts. And in this case, there is no way to minimize the deliberate destruction of an unborn child for the sake of cutting him up, removing his beautifully, intricately designed body parts, and using them for research and profit.

It is increasingly clear that for the medical research industry, the ends justify the means, but the truth is, from a moral, ethical, and humanitarian standpoint, it doesn’t matter how many lives could be saved by the harvesting of these body parts: Other lives are being destroyed for the goal of scientific advancement, and the bodies of these infants — because that’s exactly what they are — are being treated like a materially precious commodity rather than a spiritually priceless human life.

When abortion was legalized via Roe v. Wade, pro-life advocates warned that the country had set itself on a slippery slope. Now, not even 50 years later, we learn that the federal government and the American medical industry is in a complete moral and ethical free-fall, having reduced the value of infant life to a mere commodity and paving the way for any human life to be callously and cravenly destroyed and dishonored.

For this, there can be no justification — only divine judgment.

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

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