Katie Lyon and Time Magazine Were Wrong In Their Defense Of Fetal Tissue Donation

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Two weeks ago, Time magazine featured a commentary by Katie Lyon, a mother who terminated her pregnancy due to a poor pregnancy diagnosis. She chose to terminate her pregnancy in the second trimester due to her unborn daughter's diagnosis of Spina bifida and other issues which she does not expand upon. The goal of Ms. Lyon's commentary was to explain how fetal tissue donation works as a way of showing her support for Planned Parenthood. However, her characterization is an inappropriate defense of Planned Parenthood's tissue procurement and "donation" process.

I am going to begin this by stating clearly -- this is a response to Ms. Lyon's support of fetal tissue donation through Planned Parenthood, not her decision to terminate her pregnancy. I am 100% pro-life with no exceptions, and I do not support fetal tissue donation at any gestation. I do understand what it is like to be given a poor pregnancy diagnosis for your unborn child, and I myself am regrettably post-abortive. This confluence of life experience makes my writing this extremely touchy. My empathy towards a grieving mother is too great to create a dynamic where her decision is something to cheaply debate about on social media. My own culpability in ending the life of my unborn child leaves me very little latitude to pass personal judgment against the mother. However, in the interest of being true to my own ethical and moral beliefs I need to clarify that no matter what the gestation of the baby involved, I believe donating "fetal tissue" is terribly wrong.

As the mother of a child who was diagnosed in the womb with a lethal birth defect and who runs a website for families whose children are diagnosed with my daughter's disorder, I do have a unique insight into the donation of fetal tissue for research purpose. I myself have created agreements with researchers to accept donations from our babies, and many of our families have chosen to make both tissue and whole body donations for science.

The first item I would like to address is the most obvious:  it is not necessary to end the life of your child in order to donate tissue for medical research-- and if you continue your pregnancy, in some cases, your baby may be able to donate tissue to other babies who are on recipient waiting lists. Heart valves, corneas and cartilage can all be used to enhance or save the life of a baby waiting for transplant. There are even organizations which help families investigate the complexities of neonatal tissue donation. Purposeful Gift is one of the most prominent organizations helping parents navigate this territory.

Secondly, the type of tissue donation of which she is speaking is nothing like what we have seen from the Planned Parenthood videos. As she herself clearly states, she donated to a specific organization specializing in Spina bifida research. The donation was handled by a genetic counselor in her physician’s office. Chances are (and I could be wrong about this because I'm not certain how she specifically handled her "termination,") she had her procedure in an outpatient setting, most likely in a hospital or surgical center -- not an abortion clinic. I also highly doubt Ms. Lyon's physician haggled with the researchers over storage and transport costs, and most likely did not "part out" her unborn baby. Ms. Lyon's donation was similar to the type of {whole body} donation to science which many people choose during their end-of-life planning. Ms. Lyon's contribution was no doubt appreciated by those who received her daughter's remains. I imagine they were treated with dignity and respect, and even reverence, recognized for what they were -- the remains of a human being with a serious congenital birth defect; though the whole body donation of a precious baby carried to term and delivered to {a short} life would be most appreciated, both by scientist researching specific disorders, and families whose children are waiting for life altering and life saving transplants.

This is very different than the "tissue donation" for stem cell research we see in the Planned Parenthood videos. The callousness with which the workers treat the remains of beings even they identify as humans is appalling. There is no appreciation, no understanding, and definitely no reverence. These babies are parted out for indifferent researchers. There is no correlation between the two circumstances.

Third, and finally -- in the past few weeks many still images have come out along with the Planned Parenthood videos. Two of them which have made their way into my timeline are these: {1} and {2} . Note that they are marked very clearly with the notation "no abnormalities". I do acknowledge these to be older examples of procurement requests, however, it would still be accurate to claim that due to the nature of research done with stem cells, unless someone is actually studying a congenital anomaly they aren't going to accept tissue donations from babies like Ms. Lyon's. Tissue with abnormalities simply isn't usable for general research or curative medicinal purposes.

{Image: Priests for Life}

I end this repeating my statement above -- at this time, I am not intending to open a debate on whether Ms. Lyon's choice to terminate her pregnancy was the correct one or not. This is not because I have no opinion on terminations done for medical reasons -- I have quite strong opinions on this subject. It's because it would cheapen the life of her precious baby to turn her into nothing more than an internet debate.  My own commentary was only necessary because her justification of Planned Parenthood's practices was inappropriate, and could be used to further an agenda which purports to be compassionate, but is instead avaricious.

Two additional notes:

{For clarification purposes -- when most people think "stem cells" they are thinking of pluripotent embryonic stem cells, which come from discarded IVF blastocysts, and are not the same as the fetal stem cells which are being harvested by Planned Parenthood. Fetal stem cells are used in a similar fashion to adult stem cells, and the utilization of them is both unnecessary and -- some believe -- scientifically inappropriate.}

{All terms used to identify developmental stages of an unborn child's life in the womb are the common scientific terms, and in no way used to imply that an unborn child is anything less than human at any stage of gestation.}

This post has been published with minor edits at www.savethe1.com .

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