Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Japanese Market in Fetuses


Nasty piece of work lets abortionists scrape by
By Ryann ConnellStaff Writer
August 16, 2004

It is common knowledge that abortion has long been one of the most popular forms of birth control in Japan, largely because it's such an enormous money-spinner for those who perform the procedure that they have fought tooth-and-nail to prevent proliferation of alternative means.
Less well known, however, is that trade in aborted fetuses has also created a lucrative niche in the pregnancy termination market.
Helping expose the secret trade have been the recent raids on the Isesaki Clinic in Yokohama, which is accused of having routinely dumped aborted human fetuses in household garbage -- including unborn young terminated after the twelfth week of pregnancy who had body parts severed with scissors but who should by law have been accorded burial rights the same as people but weren't because of the costs involved.
"Aborted fetuses used to be laid out on a metal tray and employees would obey doctors' orders to use scissors to cut off the arms and legs," an Isesaki Clinic worker tells Tokudane Saizensen (9/9).
Embryos aborted before the third month of pregnancy is completed are accorded even less dignity. Under the Waste Disposal Law, embryos are classified as "infectious waste" and must be disposed of as such - a costly process that allegedly prompted Isesaki Clinic to take the drastic action it is accused of.
With abortion so common, there's a thriving business in the disposal of the trade's waste products, not to mention the fabulous amounts of money spent on buying absolutions or offering prayers at the numerous temples devoted to mizuko, the name the Japanese give to aborted babies that translates literally as "water children."
Municipal government charges for disposal of mizuko vary, but the City of Osaka charges 1,700 yen for a full fetus aborted up to the end of the fourth month of pregnancy. Incidentally, comparative services the city offers include the 1,400 yen charged for disposal of more than one third of a severed limb, 1,100 yen for limbs where less than one-third has been cut off and 1,400 yen for every 10 kilograms or less of human internal organs. Human internal organs weighing more than 10 kilograms cost 2,800 yen to get rid of. Dead pets are far more expensive to dispose of, with cats and dogs weighing from 5 to 10 kilograms costing 2,100 yen to remove and 1,700 yen if they weigh less than 5 kilograms.
Also suspected of making a packet out of aborted fetuses are uglier elements of the beauty business, according to Tokudane Saizensen.
Placenta beauty treatments are hot in Japan for their purported beneficial effects in combating the effects of aging and menopause.
"Ethical problems mean the most effective placenta for skin treatments, human placenta, can only be used in a select few medical institutions. Normally the placenta used in cosmetics comes from calves or lambs," a beauty magazine desk editor tells Tokudane Saizensen. "But, when you consider how lightly some take the value of a life, I don't think it's possible to rule out suggestions that there is a black market for placenta collected from aborted fetuses."

WaiWai stories are transcriptions of articles that originally appeared in Japanese language publications. The Mainichi Daily News cannot be held responsible for the contents of the original articles, nor does it guarantee their accuracy. Views expressed in the WaiWai column are not necessarily those held by the Mainichi Daily News or Mainichi Newspapers Co.