Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch: Federal Court Slams Potentially Illicit Sales of Body Parts of Aborted Fetuses – Orders Release of Additional Information on Organ Purchases

(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch announced today that a federal court ordered the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to release of additional information about its purchases of organs harvested from aborted human fetuses.  The Court also found “there is reason to question” whether the transactions violate federal law barring the sale of fetal organs. Documents previously uncovered in this lawsuit show that the federal government demanded the purchased fetal organs be “fresh and never frozen.”

Both the FDA and NIH purchased the organs from California-based Advanced Biosciences Resources (“ABR”) to create “humanized mice” for use in HIV research. ABR partners with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to dismember fetuses and sell their parts for research. The decision notes that ABR:

sold second-trimester livers and thymi for hundreds of dollars apiece. The same for brains, eyes, and lungs. After tacking on fees for services like shipping and cleaning, ABR could collect over $2,000 on a single fetus it purchased from Planned Parenthood for $60. The federal government participated in this potentially illicit trade for years.

The court raised concern about whether these transactions are legal:

Happily for the Government (and ABR), this means that the Court need not reach Judicial Watch’s argument that the Government cannot withhold the information at issue because ABR engaged in criminal conduct. Recall that it is illegal to transfer “any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration. 42 U.S.C. § 289g-2(a). Judicial Watch contends that the invoices disclosed here show that the Government paid “valuable consideration” to ABR and so the Government cannot keep the withheld information confidential.  

The court found it “dubious” that a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exception invoked by the government could be used to “shield illegal business practices under the guise of ‘confidential business information’” and declared that “[t]here is reason to question the lawfulness of the transaction between the Government and ABR.” 

In ruling in Judicial Watch’s favor, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden ordered HHS to disclose:

  • Any currently withheld names and addresses of ABR’s contract laboratories
  • Any redacted unit pricing information for fetal tissue, shipping, or other fees and services relating to the 2013-2015 years that can found in the fee schedules appended to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee report entitled “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy”
  • Any redacted per-specimen pricing information for the second-trimester fetal tissue relative to the 2016-2018 years

Judicial Watch initially filed this lawsuit in March 2019 after HHS failed to respond adequately to a September 2018 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department Health and Human Services (No. 1:19-cv-00876)). Judicial Watch asked for: 

  • All contracts and related documentation between FDA and ABR for the provision of human fetal tissue to be used in humanized mice research.
  • All records reflecting the disbursement of funds to ABR for the provision of human fetal tissue to be used in humanized mice research.
  • All guidelines and procedural documents provided to ABR by FDA relating to the acquisition and extraction of human fetal tissue for its provision to the FDA for humanized mice research.
  • All communications between FDA officials and employees and representatives of ABR related to the provision by ABR to the FDA of human fetal tissue for the purpose of humanized mice research.

“This court victory will shed additional light on the federal government’s barbaric practice of purchasing organs of aborted human beings,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent on this grotesque and potentially illegal activity.”

In June 2020, Judicial Watch uncovered records from the FDA showing that, between 2012 and 2018, the FDA entered into eight contracts worth $96,370 with ABR to acquire “fresh and never frozen” tissue from first and second trimester aborted fetuses for use in creating “humanized mice” for ongoing research.

 In February 2020, Judicial Watch uncovered records from NIH showing that the agency paid thousands of dollars to ABR to purchase organs from aborted human fetuses to create “humanized mice” for HIV research.


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