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Senate votes to ban research on fetuses

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Calling claims that fetal research helps cure diseases is a lie, state senators voted Wednesday to outlaw scientific research on aborted fetuses.

SB 1474 would bring to a halt virtually all work done on tissue from fetuses that were the result of elective abortions. The only thing doctors and laboratories could do is test the tissue to diagnose the life or health of the mother or the fetus, or conduct pathological studies to find out if the fetus was diseased.

The measure, approved by an 18-11 margin, also would make it a state crime not only to sell fetal tissue, something already illegal under federal law, but even to give it away or transfer it, something that is now permitted. And Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, added last-minute language to ensure that state health officials could find out what happened to the tissue even if it infringes on physician-patient relations.

Separately, the Senate voted by the same margin to permanently disqualify any organization that offers elective abortion from being part of the State Employees Charitable Campaign which allows state workers to have donations to groups deducted automatically from their paychecks.

“I believe that abortion kills unborn human beings,” said Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills in support of SB 1485. And he said while these are employee donations, the system is administered with tax dollars.

“If you want to support that, buy your own stamp,” he said.

Much of what is driving the debate on SB 1474 is the question of the relative merits of the research.

Planned Parenthood Arizona said it does not provide fetal tissue, though other affiliates nationally do. Donations generally come after a woman has given her consent. And clinics are allowed to charge for their costs.

“Legal fetal tissue research has profound potential to advance human health and prevent immeasurable suffering,” said Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix.

“Fetal tissue research saves lives,” she continued. “There is no substitute for fetal tissue research.”

Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, disputed those claims.

“The truth is, is that no one with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s (diseases) has been cured from using aborted fetal tissue research,” she said.

“Yet this is the kind of misleading information that Planned Parenthood has been giving women to convince them to sign off on on this on having their aborted babies’ body parts trafficked in the name of research,” Lesko continued. She called fetal research “outdated science.”

Barto went a step farther, citing what she said was a published report of a 2001 study funded by the National Institutes of Health on the use of fetal tissue to help patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“The doctors called the results absolutely devastating, tragic, catastrophic, and laveled the results a real nightmare,” she said. By contrast, Barto said there are promising results using adult stem cells which do not depend on aborted fetuses.

“This bill seeks to protect the dignity of aborted pre-born children in all respects,” she said. “Whether by profit or donation, the trafficking in fetal body parts undermines the preciousness of life.”

Wednesday’s vote also reignited the debate over undercover videos released last year that purport to show Planned Parenthood officials — though none from Arizona — discussing the harvesting and sale of  fetal tissues.

Hobbs said those videos had been “discredited” as being highly edited. And she said separate investigations showed Planned Parenthood had broken no laws.

“There was no evidence of tampering,” countered Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, but simply that the videos were “scaled down.”

And Smith said what the videos do show should be disturbing.

“You see senior-level Planned Parenthood officials joking, laughing, swilling chardonnay, eating over the sale, trafficking of human baby body parts,” he said.

Both measures now go to the House.

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