Cover Story

The harvest of abortion

"The harvest of abortion" Continued...

Issue: "The harvest of abortion," Oct. 23, 1999

Significantly, AGF opened in 1994, the year after President Clinton shattered the fetal-tissue research ban. Since then, the company's revenues have rocketed from $180,000 to $2 million in 1998. Did the Bardsleys see a market niche that was too good to pass up? Brenda Bardsley, who is now AGF president, says no. AGF's economic windfall, she says, is related to the company's expansion into adult donations, not the transfer of fetal tissue. She says she and her husband felt compelled to continue providing the medical community with a source of fetal tissue "because of the research that was going on."

"Abortion is legal, but tragic. We see what we're doing as trying to make the best of a bad situation," Mrs. Bardsley told WORLD. "We don't encourage abortion, but we see that good can come from fetal-tissue research. There is so much wonderful research going on-research that can help save the lives of wanted children."

Mrs. Bardsley says she teaches her own children that abortion is wrong. A Deep South transplant with a brisk, East coast accent, Mrs. Bardsley and her family attend a Southern Baptist church near their home on the Satilla River in White Oak, Ga. Mrs. Bardsley homeschools her three children using, she says, a Christian curriculum: "I've been painted as this monster, but here I am trying to give my kids a Christian education," she says, referring to other media coverage of AGF's fetal-parts enterprise.

Mrs. Bardsley says she's prayed over whether her business is acceptable in God's sight, and has "gotten the feeling" that it is. She also, she says, reads the Bible "all the time." And though she can't cite a chapter and verse that says it's OK to cut and ferry baby parts, she points out that God commands us to love one another. For Mrs. Bardsley, aiding medical research by supplying fetal parts qualifies. If they were in it for the money rather than for the good of mankind, says Mrs. Bardsley, AGF could charge much higher prices for fetal tissue than it does, because research demand is so high.

The issue of demand is one of several points on which the testimonies of Mrs. Bardsley and her brother-in-law Brent don't jibe. He says demand for fetal tissue "isn't all that high." She says demand for fetal tissue is "so high, we could never meet it." He says "only a small percentage" of aborting moms consent to donate their babies' bodies. She says 75 percent of them consent. He says AGF charges only for whole bodies, and doesn't see how the body-parts company Opening Lines could justify charging by the body part. She says AGF charges for individual organs and tissue based on the company's recovery costs.

Founded by pathologist Miles Jones, Opening Lines was, until recently, based in West Frankfort, Ill. According to its brochure, Opening Lines' parent company, Consultative and Diagnostic Pathology, Inc., processes an average of 1,500 fetal-tissue cases per day. While AGF requires that researchers submit proof that the International Research Board (IRB), a research oversight commission, approves their work, Opening Lines does not burden its customers with such technicalities. In fact, says the Opening Lines brochure, researchers need not tell the company why they need baby parts at all-simply state their wishes and let Opening Lines provide "the freshest tissue prepared to your specifications and delivered in the quantities you need it."

Opening Lines' brochure cloaks the profit motive in a veil of altruism. The cover tells abortionists that since fetal-tissue donation benefits medical science, "You can turn your patient's decision into something wonderful." But in case philanthropy isn't a sufficient motivator, Dr. Jones also makes his program financially appealing to abortionists. Like AGF, he offers to lease space from clinics so his staff can dissect children's bodies on-site, but also goes a step further: He offers to train abortion clinic staff to harvest tissue themselves. He even sweetens the deal for abortionists with a financial incentive: "Based on your volume, we will reimburse part or all of your employee's salary, thereby reducing your overhead."

Again the money trail: more dead babies harvested, less overhead. Less overhead, more profit.

But Dr. Jones' own profits may be taking a beating at present. When Life Dynamics released the results of its investigation to West Frankfort's newspaper The Daily American, managing editor Shannon Woodworth ran a front-page story under a 100-point headline: "Pro-Lifers: Baby body parts sold out of West Frankfort." The little town of 9,000 was scandalized. City officials threatened legal action against Dr. Jones and his chief of staff Gayla Rose, a lab technician and longtime West Frankfort resident. The story splashed down in local TV news coverage, and Illinois right-to-life activists vowed to picket Opening Lines. Within a week, Gayla Rose had shut down the company's West St. Louis Street location, disconnected the phone, and disappeared.

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