Researchers at Temple University received a FedEx package on a Thursday in 2013 containing the brain of a four-month-old, freshly aborted fetus. Last year researchers opened a box containing the liver of a four-month-old male fetus and the blood of its mother, a 23-year-old Hispanic woman weighing 145 pounds.
Here is what had to happen for those parts and blood to make it from an abortion clinic to the hands of those researchers, based on documents obtained from StemExpress — a fetal tissue procurement company under investigation by the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.
Step 1. Scientist orders from menu of parts
Researchers order fetal tissue by selecting from a detailed menu of parts on the StemExpress website, along with desired quantities, age of the fetus and the preferred transport and shipping method. The menu includes eyes, ears, tongue, brain, scalp, heart and spinal cord.
Step 2. StemExpress sends list of orders to abortion clinic
StemExpress processes the order and sends a list of ordered parts to technicians at various partnering abortion clinics. In promotional materials on the StemExpress website, abortion clinics are promised a “financial benefit” if they partner with StemExpress by allowing technicians to harvest and ship the parts.
Step 3. Technician determines which women will be asked for their fetuses
A StemExpress technician reviews the list of ordered parts and consults with clinic staff to determine which women scheduled for abortions that day are carrying the kind of fetus they need to supply the researchers. They plan to approach those specific women when they come into the clinic to abort their fetus.
Step 4. The chosen woman decides whether to consent
Technicians or clinic staff approach the chosen women and ask them whether they’re willing to donate the fetus they’re about to abort to medical researchers. If they agree, they sign a consent form. “I agree to donate the tissue from the abortion and/or miscarriage, and a blood sample if needed, as a bodily gift to be used for the advancement of medical science,” the StemExpress form states.
Step 5. The abortionist pulls the fetus out of the woman’s womb
After a woman agrees to donate the remains of her fetus, she is taken into a room where an abortionist pulls the fetus out of her womb piece by piece and puts the remains in a container. Any leftover bits are vacuumed out of the womb to ensure the continued health of the woman, and in some cases her blood is drawn for use by the researchers.
Step 6. The technician dissects the fetus
A StemExpress technician picks through the petri dish of remains for the desired parts or tissue, which can be a difficult task depending on the researcher’s request and the state of the fetal remains.
Step 7. The technician packs up the wanted parts
The tech places the parts in a sealed container or bag and packs it up with some sort of ice in a Styrofoam box that is then shipped to the researchers by whatever shipping speed and carrier they’ve selected.
“Place completed Procurement form on top of the Styrofoam box,” one set of instructions read. “Tape the cardboard box shut. Adhere the FedEx shipping label to the top of the cardboard box.”
Step 8. Staff note the physical features of mother and child
At some point in the process the technician works with the abortionist to fill out a form detailing characteristics of the aborted fetus and its mother. They note information including the weight, height and ethnicity of the mother and the sex and gestational age of the fetus.
Step 9. The technician drops off the package
Once the parts are packed and ready to ship, the technician either calls FedEx to schedule a pick-up or drops the boxes off at the end of the day. “Always know which FedEx you will be dropping off at and consider traffic,” the technicians are instructed.
Step 10. StemExpress pays the technician a bonus per specimen
Technicians receive a bonus based on the quality of each piece of aborted fetus they secure, package and ship, in addition to an hourly wage of $10 an hour. More valuable parts, such as a brain or pair of eyes earn the technician anywhere from $35 to $75 per specimen, while less valuable parts such as tongue or scalp earn them between $10 and $30 per specimen.
The House Select Panel on Infant Lives compiled the documents as part of its investigation into the fetal tissue industry, after a series of videos released last summer exposed Planned Parenthood’s dealings in aborted fetuses with companies such as StemExpress, and included allegations the clinics and others are illegally profiting by the industry. (RELATED: Here’s What A Typical Day Of Work Harvesting Fetuses Looks Like)
StemExpress cut ties with Planned Parenthood clinics following the release of the videos.
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