A newborn baby
Laws in every Australian jurisdiction forbid the sale of human tissue, including from fetuses. Image by Lisa Kurtz/AAP IMAGES

Sale of body parts is ill-informed nonsense

Lachlan Coady November 22, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Tissue from aborted babies can be sold to corporations to use in developing products.

OUR VERDICT

False. The sale of human tissue, including fetal tissue, is illegal throughout Australia.

A meme shared on Instagram claims body parts from aborted Australian babies can be sold to companies for research and development of products.

The claim is false. A health law expert told AAP FactCheck it is illegal to trade in any form of human tissue, include from fetuses. 

The meme, posted by the Australia One group, contains a mixture of claims including that babies can be aborted at full term and implies the Freemasons control the major political parties.

It features an image of a newborn, with text above stating: “This baby is 5 minutes old”. Below it are the logos of Australia’s four major political parties, with their names replaced by Mason or The Masons.

The main text states: “Australian politicians from these parties voted in legislation that allows this child to be killed 6 minutes earlier. If the child survives the abortion, it is denied pain relief and left to die. The child’s body parts are then sold as medical waste to corporations as product development.”

A screenshot of the Instagram meme.
 The Instagram meme is a medley of misinformation about abortions in Australia. 

Cameron Stewart, a professor of health, law and ethics at the University of Sydney, said that every state in Australia has laws which ban the sale of any human tissue, including fetal tissue.

“Human tissue legislation forbids the sale of fetal tissue (any human tissue in fact),” Professor Stewart told AAP FactCheck in an email.

Examples of this legislation can be seen with the NSW and Victoria versions of the Human Tissue Act, implemented during the 1980s.

Trade in human tissue is prohibited in all other states and territories by similar legislation, with some having a Transplantation and Anatomy Act, which contains similar clauses. An example can be seen in section 7 of Queensland’s Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1979.

Prof Stewart said while the legislation differs slightly from state to state, all jurisdictions are consistent in outlawing trade in human tissue for monetary gain.

“These all basically prevent contracts for valuable consideration,” he said.

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research also contains guidelines which forbid the trade of aborted tissue. Section 4.1.13 states: “There should be no trade in human fetal tissue.”

Riccardo Bosi (right)
 Riccardo Bosi (right) has featured in a number of checks performed by AAP FactCheck. 

Each state also strictly regulates how late into pregnancy abortions are permitted. Nowhere in Australia can an abortion be performed after 24 weeks, except in exceptional circumstances requiring the approval of at least one doctor (these conditions can be stricter, depending on the state).

Prof Stewart said it was not possible for abortions to be carried out spontaneously so late into a pregnancy in Australia.

“Notions that you can demand abortions without review in the 40th week are factitious,” he said.

AAP FactCheck has previously tackled claims relating to late-term abortions, debunking the idea Australia allows extremely late-term abortions.

AAP FactCheck has debunked a similar claim which stated NSW’s abortion law allowed for the sale of fetal tissue.

Australia One’s founder Riccardo Bosi is a serial spreader of misinformation. AAP FactCheck has debunked multiple claims from Mr Bosi and Australia One (see here, here, here, here, here and here).

The Verdict

The claim tissue from aborted babies can be sold to corporations to use in developing products is false. A health law expert told AAP FactCheck every state and territory in Australia has legislation which outlaws the trade in human tissue, including fetal tissue. 

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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