The March of Dimes: A Time for Reassessment
by Randy Engel
On December 10-11, 1977, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's President's Committee on Mental Retardation held an International Summit on Prevention of Mental Retardation from Biomedical Causes, at Wingspread, the headquarters of the Johnson Foundation in Racine, Wisconsin. I quote the final paragraph of the conference report given by Dr. Richard Koch of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles titled "Potential Danger of the Right to Life Movement:"
"The recent coalescence of the Right to Life Movement into a national force of significant proportions, I believe, has been a surprise to all of us. To some, this has become an unwelcome development. If we do not meet this force head-on, it could become a threat to the science of genetics, to amniocentesis programs, to sex education in public schools, and to help with the problem of teenage pregnancy, and it could seriously diminish our effort to prevent mental retardation.
"I am suggesting that we confront this force by linking up with other organizations such as the National Organization for Women, the AMA, Planned Parenthood... and abortion rights organizations... We must emphasize the importance of the protection of equal rights the right of the child to be well born and the right of the mother to have healthy children." 1 (emphasis added)
I remember the first time I read Dr. Koch's closing statement in this eugenic blueprint of the Carter Administration and the U.S. National Institutes of Death and thinking, "If it weren't for the Pro-Life Movement's attack on the March of Dimes, we Pro-Lifers might never have become the nation's number one threat to the eugenics movement in the United States."
That the Pro-Life Movement should be credited with such a noble achievement is a wonderful thing to contemplate.
Early Ties With the MOD
In the fall of 1937 the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was founded with the help of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been stricken with polio sixteen years before.
Comedian Eddie Cantor, a Tammany Hall Democratic fund-raiser, came up with the catchy slogan, "March of Dimes," and the "President's charity" was off and running in search of the elusive cure for polio. 2
The key to understanding the modus operandi of the MOD, then and now, is its large, well-financed Public Relations Department that could insure the foundation's financial success by generating a steady stream of good publicity. President Basil "Doc" O'Connor, Roosevelt's law partner; hired a battery of top-level Madison Avenue publicists and psychologists to refine the MOD's public image and fend off critics' accusations of financial malfeasance by agency officials and of the MOD's alleged exploitation of the public's fear of polio in order to bolster revenues. 3
The MOD's Public Relations Department developed a pluralistic and ecumenical approach to fundraising with a special emphasis on volunteerism, including a very successful Mothers' Walk Against Polio. Many Catholic dioceses and local parishes and schools as well as organizations like the National Council of Catholic Women and the Sons of Italy participated in these early fundraising efforts and in the immunization of students with the Salk vaccine. Over the years the MOD came to develop a special relationship with the Catholic Church that was the envy of other national health agencies, none of which ever even came close to duplicating that relationship.
These close ties of the American Church to the March of Dimes continued through the late 1950s when the foundation announced that since it had "conquered" polio, it would now turn its financial and research resources towards a new "Birth Defects Prevention Program." So it is understandable that when the Pro-Life Movement launched its boycott of the March of Dimes in the early 1970s, most Catholics, including the members of the American hierarchy, were in the state of shell shock. 4
Pro-Life Charges Against the March of Dimes
The earliest charges against the March of Dimes by national pro-life groups, including the U.S. Coalition for Life, which I head, centered upon the fact that the March of Dimes since 1958 had turned its attack against birth defects into a national campaign to eliminate pre-born children who have birth defects.
- The MOD began its "Screening to Kill program" or "Search and Destroy" operations with the creation of so-called "genetic hygiene" or "genetic counseling" centers at major medical institutions throughout the United States. Here, pregnant women thought to be at risk for certain genetic disorders such as Down syndrome or Tay Sachs disease could undergo prenatal diagnosis via mid-trimester amniocentesis, abort any suspected "defective" fetuses, and carry to term only "normal" progeny. Such eugenic-based programs presupposed the existence of liberal abortion laws permitting abortion well into the second and if necessary third trimester of pregnancy. 5
The Catholic Church opposes non-therapeutic forms of prenatal diagnosis directed at the search for and abortion of suspected affected pre-born children. 6
- Unfortunately, the MOD's promotion of eugenic abortion of affected pre-born children and the provision of seed-funds to finance these killing centers were only the tip of the MOD's anti-life iceberg. Before a physician attempts a mid-trimester amniocentesis on a woman who is usually anxious to keep her baby, providing the child does not have a birth defect, he must practice his skills. And how can he gain such experience without opening himself up to a malpractice lawsuit? The answer is simple. He practices on TBAs, that is, to-be aborted mothers. Not only did the MOD finance the development of mid-trimester amniocentesis techniques involving TBAs but it also funded more dangerous fetal diagnostic procedures such as first trimester chorion villus sampling [CVS], but second-trimester fetoscopy on babies about to be aborted. 7
The Catholic Church opposes such non-therapeutic fetal experimentation.
- As early as 1968, the MOD began to fund experiments in in-vitro fertilization by Dr. Georgiana Jagiello at Guy's Hospital Medical School in London, England, which involved the creation [and destruction] of human embryos in order to assess early chromosomal damage resulting from particular drugs and chemicals. 8
The Catholic Church opposes both the in-vitro creation of human embryos outside the mother's womb and any lethal experimentation on such human embryos.
- That same year, the MOD awarded a grant to Dr. Roger Guillemin at the Salk Institute for Bio- logical Studies in La Jolla, California, for the development. of new methods of fertility control [almost certainly abortifacient in nature]. 9
The Catholic Church opposes the development of "contraceptive" birth control devices and drugs most especially if they act as abortifacient or sterilizing agents.
- Between 1973 and 1975, the March of Dimes awarded $46,000 in donor funds to Dr. John F.S. Crocker at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for research into renal maldevelopment. Crocker used tiny but intact human embryos from aborted babies between the ages of five to twelve weeks gestation. 10
The Catholic Church opposes such research insisting that pre-born children killed by induced abortion cannot be harvested for their spare parts.
- In the early 1970s, the March of Dimes awarded Dr. Peter Adams of Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, a grant of $9,240 to study, "Fetal Brain Fuel Metabolism at Different Gestational Ages." Dr. Adams had to travel to Helsinki, Finland, to carry out his experiments which involved severing the heads of live aborted babies [ages 3-5 months gestation] delivered by hysterotomy [a mini-Caesarean-section] and then mounting those heads on perfusion equipment in order to establish whether glucose and D-beta hydroxybutyrate can serve equally as energy sources in human development. Initially, the MOD public relations department denied that their agency had jointly funded the Adams grant with the U.S. National Institute of Health. Unfortunately for the March of Dimes, the U.S. Coalition for Life was sitting on the entire Adams grant package so the MOD decided to cut its losses, shut up and wait for the storm to pass over. 11
The Catholic Church opposes such gross violations of the right-to-life and dignity of the pre-born child.
- At the same time that the MOD was helping Adams with his "research," it was also dishing out its charitable donations to Adams' superior, Dr. Robert Schwartz, whose well publicized feats of harvesting fetal blood as well as organs and tissues of aborted babies made the headlines of The San Francisco Chronicle on April 19, 1973. 12
- It is also instructive to note, that after the MOD grants to Adams and Schwartz, the "charity," went on to finance the work of Dr. A. de la Chapelle for research directed at finding a new, noninvasive prenatal diagnostic technique using a sample of maternal blood. Chapelle's research required a sample of fetal blood which he obtained by the "open-heart puncture of 10 week fetuses that had been aborted for various reasons, not connected with fetal disease," that is, healthy, unwanted babies. 13
The Catholic Church teaches that such experimentation, even on babies scheduled for abortion, is immoral and illicit.
Keeping Bad Company
As early as the 1960s, the MOD had begun to assemble its Eugenic Mafia to fill positions on its various Advisory Committees for Medical Services, Basic Research, Clinical Research and Basil O'Connor Starter Research Grants. Many of these men were nationally known for their late term eugenic abortion skills. These included prostaglandin-induced abortions and hysterotomy abortions that provide live babies as a potential source of fetal organs and tissue.
These MOD National Advisors included William Spellacy, M.D.; Edward J. Quilligan, M.D.; Leo Speroff, M.D.; John C. Hobbins, M.D.; Maurice J. Mahoney, M.D.; and Henry L. Nadler, M.D.
Other nationally known pro-abortion MOD Advisory members [also MOD Research and Medical Services grant recipients] included Drs. Kurt Hirschhorn, Charles Flowers, Jr., David G. Nathan, John T. Queenan, Kenneth J. Ryan, Rodney Howell, Richard W. Erbe, Leon Rosenberg, Mitchell Golbus, Laird Jackson, Michael Kaback, Norman Kretchmer, Arno Motulsky, and David Rimoin. 14
The MOD's Secret Weapon
These and other MOD research grants and eugenic programs are opposed to everything that the Catholic Church teaches about the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. 15
The proabortionist Dr. Henry Foster, a National Advisor to the MOD and former President Clinton's ill-fated candidate for the Office of Surgeon General, noted ". . . We do amniocentesis to decide whether or not the pregnancy should continue, and to provide a therapeutic abortion."
The MOD on "Pro-Life Agitation"
Fortunately by the mid-1970s, the March of Dimes realized it was sitting on a ticking time bomb. The national media had picked up the scent of a major scandal involving the nation's most darling health "charity." Damage control was neededbig time.
On March 16, 1976, George Voss, MOD's President for Public Relations, issued his own memorandum "Pro-Life Agitation" that was designed by the national office to assist local MOD chapters in their encounters with what Voss called, "Pro-Life resistance." 16
The extravagances of the MOD's high-powered Public Relations Department however could not hold out in definitely against the TRUTH. And 1976 actually turned out to be a pivotal banner year for the Pro-Life Movement in its battle against the March of Dimes' eugenic policies and its abortion/fetal experimentation related research.
This happy turn of events was due largely to the publication of a two-part, original, investigative study titled, Who Will Defend Michael? by the U.S. Coalition for Life. This exposé provided the first in-depth comprehensive and solidly documented report on a wide range of MOD's anti-life programs including the infamous Adams severed heads grant mentioned earlier.
The pro-life position in the MOD debate was also strengthened by the announcement of the USCL that it was creating a separate entity, the International Foundation for Genetic Research, popularly known as the Michael Fund, as the pro-life alternative to the March of Dimes.
In 1991, the USCL issued an update of the MOD controversy titled A March of Dimes PrimerThe A-Z of Eugenic Killing listing 27 reasons why Americans should withhold their charitable donations from the March of Dimes.
As the author of both documents, I am happy to report that except for some minor typos both documents proved to be MOD bullet proof.
MOD Anti-Life Programs Continue
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the March of Dimes pressed its eugenic agenda forward with ever-greater voracity. At the top of that agenda stood the need to mainline prenatal diagnosis, backed up by eugenic abortion, in standard medical practice throughout the United States.
On September 21, 1978, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives received a letter from the foundation, signed by MOD president Charles L. Massey, lobbying for the passage of the Health Services Amendments to the National Genetics Disease Act of 1976. 17
Since Massey was drawing a hefty six-digit salary with generous perks at the time, some of the Congressmen must have been taken back by Massey's lamentations on the costs for treating and institutionalizing severely affected survivors [of genetic disorders]. His foundation, Massey asserted, had led the nation's war to "prevent birth defects," now it was time for the federal government and the U.S. taxpayer to take over the task [of promoting the eugenic killing of handicapped pre-born children].
The MOD's outrages against handicapped pre-born children was brought home in an article that appeared in the April 17, 1982 issue of The Compass, the official weekly of the diocese of Green Bay titled "Attacks On the March of Dimes Called Unfair." It was prompted by the USCL's call for a national boycott against the MOD's Walk Americatheir main national fundraising event of the year.
The article stated that the Compass' own investigation, "showed no substantiation for the Coalition's charges" against the March of Dimes.
In March 1982, three major medical journals began a series on Dr. Stanley J. Robboy's, of Harvard Medical School, research that involved removing the intact reproductive tracts of aborted babies between the gestational age of 5 to 17 weeks. These tracts were then grafted into athymic "nude" mice, which were unable to reject foreign tissue. The mice [as opposed to the unborn children] were later "sacrificed" and their tissue examined for abnormalities as a result of being exposed to certain teratogenic and carcinogenic-inducing drugs. In keeping with the journals' standard format, Robboy identified the March of Dimes as one of his grant resources [grants Nos. 1-670, 1-139, and 1-837]. 18 Bishops Break Rank
Bishops Break Rank
The USCL, which has documented the MOD's anti-life record, and Benedictine priest, Father Joel Lieb, Pro-Life Director of the Diocese of Greensburg, asked the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference to convene an advisory group of the state's pro-life directors to review the "MOD Question." In early 1980, I was asked by Fr. Lieb to make a formal presentation to the PCC committee and the national office of the March of Dimes was invited by the PCC to do the same.
On August 5, 1980, three months after the PCC Pro-Life Coordinating Committee filed its report, the Governing Board of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference voted to withdraw all institutional clearance from the March of Dimes fundraising activities in Catholic institutions in the state.
The PCC decision however received almost no national publicity in the Catholic press and has retained somewhat of the nature of a well-kept 'official secret' up to the present time.
Knowing that if other state Catholic Conferences followed suit, their donations from Catholic schools and organizations would rapidly dry up, the MOD continued its pressure on the PCC to remove its fundraising moratorium. However, they were not successful and the prohibition is still on the books.
The Culture of Death in a Petri Dish
In the 1990s two new pro-life issues were added to the American bishops pro-life concerns.
They were (1) stem cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos and (2) pre-implantation diagnosis that involves both in-vitro fertilization as well as the destruction of human embryos. The American bishops led by Anthony Cardinal Bevelaqua, the new head of the Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat, have condemned both procedures and have urged the Bush Administration to defund any federally funded research involving these techniques. Fine!
What about the March of Dimes?
From the few examples I have already cited in this article, we know that the March of Dimes, since the 1960s, has generously funded research that has involved the destruction of human life at its earliest stages including the human embryo and his more developed brothers and sisters.
Recent investigative work by the USCL indicates that the March of Dimes also supports human embryonic stem cell research and pre-implantation diagnosis whereby "defective" human embryos created outside the womb are destroyed and a select number of "normal" embryos implanted in their mother's womb. Even these lucky few however are subjected to later tests such as chorion villus sampling or mid-trimester amniocentesis and aborted if found to have been damaged in the implantation process.
Last year, the MOD awarded a $65,225 grant to well-known MOD researcher Dr. Kurt Hirschhorn, Professor of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York: "To refine a method of ascertaining the chromosomal content of single cells. Goal: Pre-implantation analysis of embryos in IVF settings and prenatal diagnosis using fetal cells from maternal blood." 19
Dr. Evan Y. Snyder of Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, has received a grant of $750,000 from the March of Dimes, that's three quarters of a million dollars folks, for human embryonic stem cell research to restore brain function. 20
The internationally renowned Dr. Jerome Lejeune, Professor of Fundamental Genetics in the Faculty of Medicine of Paris, and Director of Medical Research for The Michael Fund, was an ardent foe of the March of Dimes. Speaking against eugenic policies of the March of Dimes, Lejeune said "It we can find a cure for Down syndrome maybe doctors will stop killing these children."
Plan of Action in Support of a MOD Boycott
Please write, call, or e-mail your own bishop asking him to support a national boycott of the March of Dimes and offer him the alternative of the Michael Fund. An electronic copy of this article can be obtained from the author at [email protected] .
- Contact your local pastor and ask him to insert a note in favor of the MOD boycott in the church's weekly bulletin. "Letters to the Editor" of diocesan and community newspapers are also a good way to bring the MOD's anti-life programs and policies to the attention of fellow Catholics and the general public.
- Put this article on your organization's web site and/or send it to your e-mail list with a request that it be passed on to others.
- Distribute copies of the MOD Primer to friends and neighbors and area Catholic organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and the National Council of Catholic Women. You can download a copy of the booklet from the Michael Fund web site at http://www.michaelfund.org/. Hard copies are available for $3.00 each and in bulk rate from the USCL, Box 315, Export, PA 15632
- For more details on the IFGR/Michael Fund write: 500 A Garden City Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15146 or call 412-823-6389 for a free information packet. Or visit our web site at http://www.michaelfund.org/
All donations are tax-deductible.
- And finally, over all these I efforts, put on the cloak of prayer especially for handicapped childrenborn and unborn and their families: and for the hundreds of: thousands of tiny human embryos, so dear to the heart of Dr. Lejeune and my heart also, that are threatened not only by the March of Dimes but by governmental and private interests as well.
Randy Engel is the founder and national director of the U.S. Coalition for Life, the oldest pro-life research agency in the nation. In 1978, she co-founded The International Foundation for Genetic Research, popularly known as the Michael Fund with Dr. Jerome Lejeune of Paris, as an alternative to the March of Dimes. To contact Mrs. Engel write Box 315, Export, PA 15632.
1. International Summit on Prevention of Mental Retardation from Biomedical Causes, US/DHEW No. (HDS) 78- 21023, Washington, D.C. Included among the sponsors of the meeting were the United States and Canadian branches of the National Association for Retarded Citizens (NARC).
2. For a detailed early history of the National Foundation/March of Dimes see The McHugh Chronicles by Randy Engel; available from the U.S. Coalition for Life, Box 315, Export, PA, 15632. $12.50 (includes postage and handling).
3. Ibid., p. 44.
4. Catholics would have been less surprised at the eugenic policies and programs of the MOD had they known of its long-standing ties with the Eugenic Establishment, especially the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. See The McHugh Chronicles for documentation on this and related early anti-life activities of the foundation.
5. Mid-trimester amniocentesis is an invasive diagnostic, not therapeutic, technique which involves the insertion of a needle through the pregnant woman's abdomen into the baby's amniotic sack. A sample of amniotic fluid containing scuffed off cells of the baby is removed and analyzed for the presence of any genetic or biochemical abnormalities. For a detailed report on the MOD's promotion of various techniques of prenatal diagnosis see The McHugh Chronicles, pp. 62-64.
6. For the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on non-therapeutic prenatal diagnosis, IVF, artificial insemination, and human embryo research see Instruction on Respect for Human Life In Its Origin And On The Dignity of Procreation, February 22,1987, Vatican City.
7. For descriptions of these chorion villus sampling and fetoscopy and examples of MOD research grants in these areas, see The McHugh Chronicles, pp. 62-64.
8. National Foundation Annual Report. 1968, New York, p. 15.
10. See National Foundation Facts '93, p. 36. Also "Kidneys Taken From Abortions Used in Growth Defects Study," Canadian Family Physician, March. 1973.
11. For complete details on the Adams grant see "Who Will Defend Michael?" Prolife Reporter, Vol. 4, No. 12, Part II, pp. 24-28, published by the USCL, Box 315, Export, PA 15632. A zeroxed copy of this now out-of-print series is available for $15.00 from the USCL.
12. Ibid., p. 25.
13. See A March of Dimes PrimerThe A-Z of Eugenic Abortion, 1991, p. 11, published by the USCL, Box 315, Export, PA 15632. Available for $3.00. Also free download available from www.michaelfund.org.
14. Ibid. pp. 4-5. Also see Who Will Defend Michael?, Parts I and II.
15. For a complete history of Msgr. McHugh's activities at the Bishops' Pro-Life Office in Washington, D.C. see The McHugh Chronicles.
16. For the full text of the Voss Memorandum "Pro-Life Agitation," see Who Will Defend Michael?,
Part I, pp.1-2.
17. Charles L. Massey, "Dear Member" letter dated September 1978 and urging support for an extension of the 1976 National Genetics Diseases Act. Copies available from the USCL.
18. S. Robboy, O. Taguchi, G. Cunha, "Normal Development of the Human Female Reproductive Tract and Alterations Resulting From Experimental Diethylstilbestrol," Perspective in Pathology, (0046-8177/82/030010190), pp.190-191.
19. March of Dimes, Research Grants 2000, p. 24.
20. Ibid., p.21.
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