I’d rather have wrinkles than kill babies, Neocutis

(The following is a media release issued on November 3, 2009, by Debra Vinnedge, founder and executive director of Children of God for Life, an American Life League Associate group. It is reprinted here with her kind permission.)

Last week, the pro-life organization Children of God for Life made news when it issued a media release saying that Neocutis, a San Francisco-based cosmetics company, was using aborted fetal material to produce its anti-wrinkle skin cream. Since then, thousands of angry consumers have begun taking action. Many have called or written Neocutis to complain, and unfortunately, they are receiving jaded, if not patently false responses from the company president, Mark Lemko.

For starters, Neocutis responded to one inquiry by claiming there was only one abortion involved when, in fact, its own web site states, “The Laboratoire de Médecine Foetale at the Medical School of the University Hospital of Lausanne has worked extensively with fetal cells since 1995 and resulted in several patent applications.”

Neocutis further says it was formed in 2002 as a spin-off of the university’s medical school team and began working to protect “the intellectual property of their proprietary technology defining a business strategy, setting up a business plan and hiring the pioneers in order to establish the skin cell bank.” 

Yet the abortion used to provide the fetal material for their products was done in 2004. Clearly, if they had to protect their "proprietary technology," multiple sources of aborted fetal material had to have been used for years, prior to perfecting the final cell line that they ultimately used in 2004.

In what can only be called suspect at best, Neocutis stated that the 2004 abortion was done because the “pregnancy could not come to term” and that “the mother’s life was in danger.” Yet what is reported in Experimental Gerontology (Vol. 44, Issue 3, March 2009, pp. 208-218) about its research makes no mention of this at all.

What the research paper states is that the fetal material was obtained from a 14-weeks gestation male baby “after pregnancy termination” in which they “obtained informed and written consent.” Considering that the report dedicated an entire section to the “ethical aspects of working with human fetal cells,” in which they attempted to sanitize what they were doing, it is certain that if the abortion was somehow classified as medically necessary, it would have been documented as such. And of course, Neocutis does not mention why all those other abortions were done prior to 2004. Apparently, that is something it was not counting on the public finding out.

And while Neocutis promises “no further fetal biopsies will be needed,” the University of Lausanne states, “We have seen that cells frozen in this manner are capable of being stored for at least 15 years in our laboratory.” So what happens after 15 years? The cells will eventually lose their capacity to replicate and will need to be replaced.
Neocutis has desperately tried to minimize its notorious activity by noting that only a four-centimeter section of skin was used to produce its cell line. But taken into perspective, based on the size of a baby at 14 weeks gestation, that’s about the size of the entire baby’s back. 

Even more appalling was its attempt to justify using aborted fetal material. Mr. Lemko told  another letter writer that he “felt comfortable with his decision” after studying the 2005 statement by the Pontifical Academy for Life, "Moral Reflection on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses." He cites this statement in his letter:

[A]s the same vaccines are prepared from viruses taken from the tissues of fetuses that had been infected and voluntarily aborted, and the viruses were subsequently attenuated and cultivated from human cell lines which come likewise from procured abortions, they do not cease to pose ethical problems. If someone rejects every form of voluntary abortion of human fetuses, would such a person not contradict himself/herself by allowing the use of these vaccines of live attenuated viruses on their children? Would it not be a matter of true (and illicit) cooperation in evil, a problem which arises every time that a moral agent perceives the existence of a link between his own acts and a morally evil action carried out by others?

It is unconscionable that Mr. Lemko would use the Vatican statement to defend his actions. Not only are we talking apples and oranges here—health vs. vanity—he must have missed the part of that document where it stated,

Therefore, whoever—regardless of the category to which he belongs—cooperates in some way, sharing its intention, to the performance of a voluntary abortion with the aim of producing the above-mentioned vaccines, participates, in actuality, in the same moral evil as the person who has performed that abortion.

The Pontifical Academy for Life rightly puts no weight on the intention of the mother, as it is inconsequential when multiple parties are involved in an act of evil. Neocutis is directly complicit because it was its intention to use aborted fetal material in order to produce its skin creams.

Interestingly, both the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and Pope Benedict XVI in his December 2008 encyclical, Dignitas Personae, condemned the use of these "illicit biological materials," but Pope Benedict took it even further, stating,

Therefore, it needs to be stated that there is a duty to refuse to use such “biological material” even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion, or when there was no prior agreement with the centers in which the artificial fertilization took place. This duty springs from the necessity to remove oneself, within the area of one’s own research, from a gravely unjust legal situation and to affirm with clarity the value of human life (35).

Additionally, both Vatican statements commented on users of the end products from these aborted fetal cell lines, cautiously noting that parents could use the vaccines in question "on a temporary basis" and in situations of "grave inconvenience" or "considerable danger" to the health of their children and society.

Hmm. Now, what do you suppose the Vatican would say about using these cosmetic creams?

Children of God for Life is urging the public to take action by "sounding off" on its web site or by contacting Neocutis directly. It is also calling for a full boycott of all Neocutis products and any companies distributing them. Further information is available at the Children of God for Life web site.

Editor's note: Also see the story in yesterday’s Washington Times.