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Assembly Committee Holding Public Hearing On Bill To Ban Sale Of Fetal Tissue

Proposal Is In Response To Controversial Planned Parenthood Video From California

Wisconsin Capitol
Rough Tough, Real Stuff (CC-BY-NC-ND)

A state Assembly committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday pertaining to a bill banning the sale and use of fetal tissue, organs or cells.

State Reps. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, and Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said that their proposal would ban the sale, transfer and experimentation of aborted fetuses. Biotech companies and university researchers oppose the bill.

Gail Robertson, who works in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Wiscosnin-Madison, said she has used fetal kidney cells to find out why some drugs caused heart arrhythmia.

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“If this bill were to pass, it would bring much of the biomedical research enterprise at the university to a halt,” Robertson said.

The bill comes in the wake of video secretly recorded in California by an anti-abortion group representing themselves to national Planned Parenthood officials as buyers of fetal tissue. Wisconsin Planned Parenthood doesn’t facilitate the donation of tissue from aborted fetuses.

In the 1990s, several drugs were pulled off market because they were causing sudden cardiac death. Robertson and her colleagues found a new component of the heart’s electrical system known as the hERG channel, using fetal cells in their research.

“My colleagues and I were able to quickly translate this basic science discovery into a life-saving technology, which is used by every pharmaceutical company in the world,” said Robertson.

She said there is no suitable substitute for the fetal cells her lab currently uses.