Aborted Fetal Tissue Research



By Julie Schmit-Albin

Executive Director

Nebraska Right to Life


On April 21, 2001, Nebraska Right to Life and the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities issued a press release in opposition to a proposed local ordinance of the Omaha City Council intended to ban the use of aborted babies for research. Nebraska Right to Life believes this was the only logical and sensible course to take, with regard to the future of a statewide ban. Please read on for the facts:

I was not aware of the language in the proposed Omaha City Council oridnance banning aborted fetal tissue use which the Council was to vote on April 24th. My focus has been so intently upon the passage of LB 462 these past few months that my attention wasn’t on what was happening in Omaha on this issue. LB 462 is the bill introduced by Sen. Dwite Pedersen in this session of the Legislature to enact a statewide ban on the use of aborted babies for research. On April 11th, LB 462 was bracketed to next January. About a week and a half later I realized we should probably see the language in Omaha, which I had never seen. I had been given a copy of a proposed petition initiative that had been circulating in Bellevue on the same issue. That petition contained about two lines of language and that was the only language I knew was being dealt with in Omaha or Bellevue. On Thursday morning, April 19th, I requested the language of the ordinance from the Omaha City Clerk.

I faxed a copy of the language to our National Right to Life State Legislative Director and attorney, Mary Spaulding Balch. After consulting with Mary, Nebraska Right to Life determined that passage of this ordinance could hamper the passage of LB 462 next session. The main reason we opposed passage of the ordinance is contained in the attached press release reprinted in this factsheet. The main opposition stemmed from from the belief that if there is to be a "test case" on the aborted fetal tissue issue; Nebraska Right to Life wanted to see it on the best possible language, which we believe to be LB 462. Moreover, the language in the Omaha ordinance was poorly drafted compared to LB 462:


1. The language contained a subjective standard, rendering any ban useless according to National Right to Life. The subjective standard is seen in Sec. 12-151....."in the best judgment of the person conducting the research, based upon the available knowledge or information at the approximate time of the research, the research substantially jeopardizes the life or the health of the embryo, fetus or neonate." This is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. In other words, the researcher who is receiving the tissue is the person who determines whether it jeopardizes the life or health of embryo, fetus or neonate to be using it.

2. Even if the subjective standard was removed and objective standard inserted, the fact remains that the objective standard would be based on research generally accepted in the research community...once again, the fox being in charge of the hen house as we don’t believe there are currently ethical standards in place in regard to aborted fetal tissue research.

3. The Michigan statute which the ordinance is based upon is not a ban on the use of aborted babies for research. There is no such ban in place in Michigan. However, it was misrepresented that such an ordinance would equal a ban on aborted baby research. Right to Life of Michigan Lobbyist Ed Rivett stated to me that the statute which the Omaha ordinance was based upon was intended to deal only with prohibiting research on living embryos, neonates or fetuses. He said the statute did not pertain to the use of tissue from dead babies. It has been touted that this statute has been in existence in Michigan for twenty years and never challenged. One might submit that it has never been challenged because it has no teeth in it and researchers are free to do as they please under it. (See Items # 1 & 2 above.) And, National Right to Life did not write the language of this Michigan statute. When it was passed in 1976, National Right to Life did not have in place a Department of State Legislation. In subsequent years, National Right to Life developed that department and that is now what state affiliates to National Right to Life, such as Nebraska Right to Life, use for drafting model legislation. It was this department and the attorney therein, Mary Spaulding Balch, who was instrumental in assuring that the drafting of LB 462 would be cutting edge and able to fend off questions of constitutionality.

3. Moreover, it’s questionable if the City has any legal jurisdiction over a State entity; i.e. Senator Brashear’s 14 page legal analysis of LB 462 wherein he explains exactly why only the State can have jurisdiction over another State entity.

4. If this ordinance had passed; there would most assuredly be a legal challenge. To what levels that challenge would have been taken is uncertain. However, our concern is that any pending legal challenge of this ordinance would then give the State Legislature an "out" not to deal with LB 462 in 2002. Further, if the ordinance was rejected by successive higher courts, the perception created in the public and in the minds of the Legislature would have been that the courts have already dealt with this issue; and that the issue has been decided.

5. Nebraska Right to Life rejects the notion that poorly written language that has no similarity whatsoever to LB 462, could become the test case for Nebraska on this issue, simply because four members of a seven member City Council would vote to pass it. For that reason we called all members of the City Council and the Mayor to ask them to consider our concerns before voting on the ordinance.

The Omaha ordinance failed to pass April 24th on a vote of 3 For, 3 Against and 1 Abstention.

ACTION NEEDED: Nebraska Right to Life is not ready to give up on the legislative process after two years. LB 462 will be back up for first round debate next January in the Legislature. Please fill out the form below and leave with us so that we can keep you updated on what needs to be done between now and January to see a statewide ban on aborted baby research enacted. Nebraska Right to Life distributed 10,000 postcards this past legislative session for pro-lifers to write to their senators about this issue. Key legislative districts have now been identified and it is our challenge to pull back the handful of senators that the University was successful in scaring away from LB 462. Please pledge your help in this effort. Thank you!




4/21//01 Press Release From:


Two statewide pro-life organizations, Nebraska Right to Life and the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities have announced their opposition to the proposed ordinance before the Omaha City Council banning the use of fetal tissue from induced abortions. The primary basis of opposition stems from a concern that the ordinance is poorly drafted and should it be enacted, a subsequent court challenge would likely succeed and consequently impede efforts to pass LB 462. LB 462, a bill pending in Nebraska’s Legislature, would ban the use of tissue from induced abortions at publically funded institutions. On April 11th, senators voted to hold LB 462 over until the 2002 legislative session.

The language in LB 462 was drafted very carefully to ensure it would withstand judicial scrutiny. While we applaud the willingness of some Omaha City Council members to address this issue, we believe that LB 462 is the best vehicle to achieve our goal of prohibiting the use of fetal tissue from induced abortions by public institutions. It is our hope that if the Omaha City Council wishes to make a statement on this issue, that they would instead pass a resolution in support of the passage of LB 462 next session.


Support for Aborted Fetal Tissue Research is Incompatible

with Pro Life Principle

A Clarification of Pro Life Principle

            Throughout the public debate over the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s research involving the use of fetal brain tissue derived from induced abortions, some public officials have tried to maintain that supporting this research is compatible with a pro-life position.  The purpose of this statement is to declare that: 

Supporting aborted fetal tissue research is incompatible with the most fundamental principle of the pro-life position. 

            The principle at the core of opposition to abortion is a belief that prenatal human beings are morally equal to postnatal human beings and deserve to be equally recognized and protected in law.  Accordingly, this principle means that killing (or complicity with killing) innocent human beings BEFORE birth is just as wrong as killing (or complicity with killing) human beings AFTER birth. 

            Based on this fundamental principle, the pro life movement opposes UNMC’s aborted fetal tissue research for at least two reasons:

  1. In order to do this research, UNMC depends upon a prearranged and ongoing collaboration with induced abortion and is therefore complicit with the intentional destruction of prenatal human beings.  Those who adhere to the principle stated above can no more support UNMC’s collaboration with the destruction of prenatal human beings than they would support UNMC’s collaboration with the destruction of innocent human beings after birth (e.g. collaborating with a professional hit man to obtain body parts from his victims).
  1. Proper consent cannot be obtained for the use of the remains of an intentionally aborted baby.  Those who adhere to the principle stated above believe that a mother who seeks an abortion cannot legitimately consent to the use of her child’s body just as a mother who conspires to kill a born child cannot consent to the use of her child’s body.

The bottom line in the moral analysis of using aborted fetal tissue in research is this: the moral arguments for or against its use stand or fall on whether one equates the moral status of human beings before birth with human beings after birth.  For anyone who believes that prenatal human beings are of equal moral status as born human beings, support for UNMC’s research using the bodies of intentionally aborted babies cannot be morally or intellectually reconciled.

             The pro life movement in Nebraska, represented by the following organizations, will work together to ensure that this clarification of the fundamental principle of the pro life position is communicated clearly and broadly throughout Nebraska and in particular to any public official who claims that a pro life stance is compatible with support for aborted fetal tissue research.

Support for Aborted Fetal Tissue Research is Incompatible

with Pro Life Principle

A Clarification of Pro Life Principle


 Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro Life Activities

 Business and Professional People for Life

 Democrats for Life

Family First

 Life Chain—Nebraska

 Metro Right to Life

 Nebraska Family Council

 Nebraska Right to Life

 Vital Signs Ministries



LB 462 Post Card Campaign

Nebraska Right to Life kicked off its post card campaign for bill LB 462 to ban the use of aborted babies for research in Nebraska at the annual Walk For Life January 20th, 2001 at the State Capitol. Pro-lifers are urged to immediately send post cards to their state senator asking them to support LB 462. Free post card packets containing background information about the bill can be ordered by contacting Nebraska Right to Life.

(402) 489-4802
(402) 489-6042 FAX
[email protected]

University of Nebraska Board of Regents

Julie Schmit-Albin
Executive Director, Nebraska Right to Life
RE: Use Of Aborted Baby Tissue At UNMC

Two weeks ago the front page of the Omaha World-Herald smacked thousands of Nebraskans in the face and ruined a perfectly good Sunday with the disclosure that aborted baby remains were being used in research at UNMC. I'm surmising that most, if not all of you, were just as surprised as the rest of the State. 

Since that time discourse from all sides has dominated our State's airwaves and newspapers. The trial balloons have been floated and the spin has been spun. The talk show hosts have emoted 

I'm also guessing that the University system has been entangled in one of its' worst public relations' nightmares ever. 

At first we heard that it was just a matter of educating the uneducated about the vital need to use aborted babies for research. Then we were to be comforted by the knowledge that every effort would be made to use tissue obtained through moral means....although the need for some aborted baby tissue would always be present and utilized.



LINCOLN---Eight months after the University of Nebraska Board of Regents vowed to direct the University of Nebraska Medical Center to find alternative sources other than aborted baby tissue for its research; UNMC claims to be making headway with its use of rapid autopsies. However, there is nothing new in UNMC's report to the media today that they have been able to obtain two of the three types of cells they have been looking for through rapid autopsies, said Julie Schmit-Albin, Executive Director of Nebraska Right to Life. 

At the July 18th meeting of UNMC's Bioethics Advisory Committee, Dr. Sam Cohen, a pathology and microbiology professor at UNMC, told the Lincoln Journal Star:, 'Rapid autopsies on children and adults show promise for replacing abortions as the source of some brain cells used in research....But such procedures don't appear likely to yield neurons, a key type of cell for study.'

"Today UNMC states that they are still only able to obtain two of the cell types, astrocytes and microglia, from the rapid autopsies they have performed,"said Schmit-Albin, " The quest for mature neurons is still eluding them and just a few weeks ago Dr. Sam Cohen of UNMC said obtaining neurons 'didn't appear likely.' Now Dr. Howard Gendelman who is directing the UNMC research, says 'a reduction in the amount of fetal tissue from elective abortions needed for the research is possible.' 

"Pro-life Nebraskans don't want just a 'reduction' in the amount of aborted baby body parts being used; they want an end to the whole macabre situation which places the state's premier medical facility in cahoots with partial-birth abortionist LeRoy Carhart."said Schmit-Albin.

A few weeks ago Dr. Cohen told the Bioethics Committee (Lincoln Journal-Star 7/19/00) they had no evidence that rapid autopsies would yield neurons. 'That means Medical Center researchers must continue using immature neurons collected from aborted fetuses. Neurons from full-terms infants already have lost many of the characteristics needed in the research.' 

"UNMC's public relations department is on overdrive trying to frame and sell the use of aborted babies for research to Nebraskans." said Schmit-Albin, "They have to keep teasing the public with this carrot on a stick. But in all of their comments, UNMC officials have never stated that their goal is to reach 100% reliance on tissue derived from moral means. Until they actually do that and get out of the business of sacrificing innocents in the pursuit of their noble aims; pro-lifers will keep the pressure on UNMC."


State Senator Dwite Pedersen of Omaha has vowed to introduce a new ban on the use of aborted baby body parts for research in the next legislative session. Sen. Pedersen made his pledge on the floor of the Legislature as LB 1405, the bill in the 2000 session, died when it butted up against the powerful lobby of the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). The bill was introduced by Senator John Hilgert of Omaha in response to the revelation that UNMC has been using aborted baby body parts for research in Alzheimers and AIDS dementia since 1993. Partial-birth abortionist Leroy Carhart of Bellevue supplies UNMC with brain tissue from aborted babies. 

Despite intense lobbying by Nebraska Right to Life, Metro Right to Life, Nebraska Family Council and Nebraska Catholic Conference, LB 1405 was pulled from legislative debate last March when it became apparent that 33 votes to shut off a filibuster were not attainable.

Pro-life efforts centered on dispelling the vast amounts of misinformation put out by UNMC. UNMC falsely claimed for example that if the use of aborted baby body parts were halted, all neurodegenerative research at UNMC would cease. UNMC was also successful in spreading the myth that the pro-life groups were opposed to all medical research. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Not even the University Board of Regents, other elected officials or the general public knew of the research which is propelled by grants from the National Institute of Health. Once the truth surfaced, local right to life chapters circulated petitions in opposition to the use of aborted fetal tissue being used. Over 9,000 signatures of Nebraskans were gathered in a couple months' time and presented to state senators and the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents had washed its hands of the matter last December by passing a resolution stating that they would seek alternative sources of tissue derived from "moral means," i.e. miscarried babies and other methods. It was at that point that pro-life groups took the legislative approach to rectify the situation.

Nebraska Right to Life will continue to educate its grassroots about what is occurring at UNMC and is willing to send speakers to your area to present a forum about the issue for interested pro-lifers. Contact the NRL office at 402-489-4802 to line your group up for the Fall speaking schedule.


(Underlined passages are emphasis added by Nebraska Right to Life)

In the wake of the aborted fetal tissue controversy, University of Nebraska President Dennis Smith named a Bioethics Advisory Committee to,according to the 7/19/00 Lincoln Journal Star, "discuss and make recommendations about the use of human stem cells, whether embryonic, fetal or adult, in research and treatment ....and to look at the University's institutional review boards and make recommendations for strengthening their work."

Quoting from the Journal-Star article, written by reporter Martha Stoddard who covered the 7/18/00 Bioethics Committee meeting 

"Rapid autopsies on children and adults show promise for replacing abortions as the source of some brain cells used in research....But such procedures don't appear likely to yield neurons, a key type of cell for study, said Dr. Sam Cohen, a pathology and microbiology professor at UNMC." 

"'Right now we have no evidence that it will,' he told members of the Nebraska Bioethics Advisory Committee." 

"That means Medical Center researchers must continue using immature neurons collected from aborted fetuses. Neurons from full-term infants already have lost many of the characteristics needed in the research." 

"But if autopsies done within a few hours of death can provide two other types of brain cells astrocytes and microglia, researchers may be able to reduce their need for fetal tissue by at least half, Cohen said." 

"Stem cells are of interest because they renew themselves, rather than dying out after a few months or weeks as other human cells do, and because they create other types of cells. Some stem cells have the potential to form virtually any type of body tissue. Others form only specific types of tissue. Some stem cells survive into adulthood, such as those that create skin and bone marrow. Others are active only in embryos, such as those that create neurons and heart muscle."

"'These stem cells have enormous healing power and healing properties,' said Dr. Harold Maurer, UNMC Chancellor."

"They also have enormous power to create controversy, because they are collected either from embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization or from the developing genitals of aborted fetuses." 

Harvey Perlman, interim Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and chairman of the Bioethics Committee agreed to seek viewpoints from both those opposed to embryonic or aborted stem cell research and those who support it to make presentations to the committee before it makes any decisions about pursuing this research.

"However, he said, the presentations were unlikely to sway any committee members, and the group likely would proceed on the basis that stem cell research could be ethically considered in some circumstances."

- End of quotations from Lincoln Journal-Star article.

Chancellor Perlman has already issued the foregone conclusion that stem cell research, some of which could be derived from human embyros or aborted babies, will likely be pursued by UNMC. Back when the aborted baby research issue was first brought up to the Board of Regents, self-appointed point man, Regent Drew Miller made the claim that UNMC should be able to achieve 100 percent procurement of tissue from moral means within a few months. We have not seen that come to fruition. In fact, UNMC spokesman Dr. Sam Cohen admits that the idea of finding alternative sources of tissue through rapid autopsies has so far produced no neuron cells, the main type of cell they need. They further conclude that if the rapid autopsies can yield two other types of cells...astrocytes and microglia...they might be able to cut in half the need for using aborted baby tissue. 

So while UNMC's public relations machine has given the impression that they are addressing the concerns of pro-life Nebraskans, we still have no evidence to conclude that they ever intend to fully stop using aborted babies for research and now alarmingly, we have the Bioethics Committee chairman stating that they will be pursuing stem cell research as well, because he doesn't think presentations by those opposing this research would sway any committee members to oppose it. 

Why is Chancellor Perlman speaking for the whole committee when at least two pro-lifers that we know of were appointed to the committee? Would they not oppose stem cell research using cells derived from embryos or aborted babies? Or is the whole UNMC Bioethics Advisory Committee simply there to rubber stamp what UNMC wants? Was the appointment of two token pro-lifers to the committee a mechanism to provide cover for UNMC in light of complaints from the pro-life community that our voices were not heard at the Board of Regents' meetings? 

One thing is certain, UNMC has the resources at hand to further confuse the public and apply window-dressing to the whole issue of using aborted babies for research and now, the new frontier of gathering stem cells from embryos and aborted babies. Pro-life Nebraskans must rise up and speak out against this injustice in every community in Nebraska.