Life Issues: March of Dimes Boycott

March of Dimes. It’s been 25 years since the right-to-life movement began to boycott the March of Dimes. Back then it was because that organization sponsored and pushed the technique of mid-trimester amniocentesis in order to diagnose handicapped children in the womb, and then 90% to 95% of them were killed.

With ups and downs, that boycott has been retained over the years, but the reasons for it have slowly changed. Amniocentesis, or the testing of the fluid in the bag of waters around the baby, has moved from being an experimental technique to one that is used routinely around the country.

Until I left the presidency of the National Right to Life Committee in 1991, I had been what Washingtonians call “the spear-carrier” on this issue for the pro-life movement. As I was leaving the presidency, I asked the March of Dimes to send me a printout of all the grants that they had made for research in the previous three years. My hope was that, by reviewing these in detail, we would find that there was no longer a reason to boycott them – and I was personally anxious to end that boycott. But, sadly, they refused to give us access to these records, and so the boycott continued.

Two years ago, the initiative was taken up again – this time by the Rev. Robert Fleischmann, the national director of WELS Lutherans for Life. He once again requested a printout of their grants – and this time they agreed. They sent him records for two years, so he sent copies to a number of qualified physicians. We each evaluated them and discovered several projects that apparently used fetal tissue from aborted babies.

The MOD spokespeople said they did not think these were from aborted babies, but refused Rev. Fleischmann’s request that the MOD add an official policy that they would refuse grants for research projects involving the use of tissue from aborted babies. So the end result was that he wrote an open letter to the March of Dimes stating: “We would counsel the pro-life movement to continue its boycott of the March of Dimes.” He would “encourage the pro-life and Christian community to consider other avenues of charitable support, such as the Michael Fund which does not in any way compromise our values for the sanctity of human life.”

In response, the MOD replied in a public letter. Rev. Fleischmann asked if I would respond to it – and I did. I found the letter quite inadequate, noted that its comparisons were faulty, that it spoke of extraneous issues, and was, as I said, “a mixture of some truths, some half-truths and some false statements.” I agreed with Rev. Fleischmann.

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