As state policymakers elected to represent the people of Minnesota, many legislative colleagues and I were appalled to learn that the University of Minnesota participates in research on aborted human fetal organs. Not only is this research, in our view, a violation of state law, it is highly controversial and has failed to produce a treatment or cure over the course of a decade of research.
When the university was initially asked if they participated in research on aborted babies, the response was "no." It was not until an undercover investigation by Alpha News in October that legislators learned the truth — the university is, in fact, buying organs from aborted babies to perform research upon.
While the regents and the president issued apologies to legislators for the original miscommunication — and understandably the president and regents cannot know of everything going on in such a large university at all times — subsequent inquiries from legislators regarding the university's adherence to state laws proved less than satisfactory.
For example, Minnesota law clearly states that aborted fetal remains must be disposed of either by cremation or burial, including those delivered to laboratories. As the university admitted to disposing of aborted baby remains as biohazard waste, we believe the university was in violation of this law.
In one response to a legislator on this topic, university leaders indicated they would, "as a matter of policy," amend the way they procure and dispose of aborted fetal tissue. They said "as a matter of policy" because they are not making this change in order to conform to Minnesota law. They believe they are in compliance with the law, "based on its plain language and the rules of statutory construction." Notably, one can use the same reasoning to state the case that they are in violation of the law …" based on its plain language and the rules of statutory construction."
In addition, the university's own policies on controversial research appear to contradict one another: There are extensive policies and procedures in place for any research upon animals, given the "controversial nature" of such research. Yet in the case of research on aborted human fetal remains, arguably just as controversial if not more so, the guidelines are, in our view, less restrictive. (For example, in order to conduct research on animals, a panel has to meet to discuss whether or not said research could be done using a "lower-order" animal; i.e. one should not research upon a cat if a grasshopper could serve in the same capacity.)
Furthermore, while proponents of this research point to the development of the polio vaccine as an achievement, the researchers who developed it later testified that they did not need aborted fetal tissue (the same is true for many other vaccines).
The university receives millions of taxpayer dollars each year. Given the controversial nature of this research, we believe it is the duty of the Legislature to request that the university prohibit all research on aborted human fetal organs, thereby removing itself from this controversy and respecting the moral stance of thousands of taxpaying Minnesotans.
Several legislators recently sent a letter to the president and regents of the university requesting the same, citing some of the evidence above. Unfortunately, to date, the university is choosing to "stand with its peers" in defense of this research.
Abigail Whelan, R-Anoka, is a member of the Minnesota House. This commentary was also submitted on behalf of the following legislators, all Republicans: Sens. Michelle Fischbach and Warren Limmer. Reps. Mark Anderson, Jeff Backer, Brian Daniels, Bob Dettmer, Steve Drazkowski, Sondra Erickson, Steve Green, Glenn Gruenhagen, Dave Hancock, Josh Heintzeman, Kathy Lohmer, Eric Lucero, Tim Miller, Jim Nash, Marion O'Neill, Cindy Pugh, Peggy Scott, Dennis Smith, Anna Wills.