The CEO of StemExpress acknowledged in court Thursday that her biotech company sells beating fetal hearts and intact fetal heads to medical researchers.
The woman, who was identified only as Doe 12, told the San Francisco Superior Court that the fetal heads could be attached to the body or instead “could be torn away” at the time of procurement.
Doe 12’s testimony came at a preliminary hearing for two activists from the “pro-life” Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. They were charged with 14 felony counts of illegal taping of confidential information and one felony count of criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.
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The charges stem from their posing as employees of a fake biotech company to record undercover videos of abortion facilities and meetings with abortion providers. The videos, which were released in 2015 to widespread conservative horror, purported to prove that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers worked with StemExpress to profit from the sale of donated fetal tissue.
StemExpress cut ties with Planned Parenthood shortly after the videos were released.
However, a number of federal and state investigations failed to establish that Planned Parenthood profited from the arrangement or broke the law. Critics said the videos were heavily edited and misleading.
At Thursday’s hearing, Peter Breen, an attorney representing Daleiden, asked Doe 12 if StemExpress supplies fetal hearts to Stanford University for a research technique that he said “requires a beating heart.”
Doe 12 hesitated to answer, saying, “There’s so much targeting of researchers.”
However, pressed by Judge Christopher Hite, she conceded: “Yes, we have provided heart tissue to Stanford.”
Doe 12 also said that fetus’ intact skull may or may not be left attached to the body before being sent to researchers, who have argued that fetal stem cells are necessary to achieve potentially revolutionary medical breakthroughs.
In one of the activists’ videos, Doe 12 says that there is high demand for “raw fetal tissue” and that the fetal brain should be shipped in a “whole calvarium,” or skull.
“Just make sure the eyes are closed,” says Daleiden, who is undercover.
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“Yeah, laughs Doe 12. “Tell the lab techs it’s coming … it’s almost like they don’t want to know what it is.”
The court hearing in San Francisco is slated to resume Tuesday, with Doe 12 returning next week for a final round of testimony.
Always a hot button issue, abortion has lately returned to the center of the culture wars. With the Supreme Court moving rightward under President Donald Trump, a number of states have this year passed laws severely restricting the procedure. The laws have not gone into effect and are expected to be blocked in courts.
However, under pressure from anxious “pro-choice” advocates, a number of Democratic-majority states to move to protect the procedure.