WASHINGTON – More than 20 House lawmakers have signed their names to a bill that would ban the importation of "plastinated human remains." The measure comes amid controversy involving "Bodies The Exhibition" now touring the country and the world.
The exhibit features multiple human bodies, carved and sliced in half to demonstrate anatomic systems. However, the bodies on exhibit came from a Chinese university, and lawmakers say they are concerned about allegations that the bodies may have been taken without full consent of the deceased.
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., is the chief sponsor of the bill. He said, considering China's human rights record, it's questionable whether the university obtained permission to plastinate the bodies and sell them for display.
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Akin spokesman Steve Taylor said his boss introduced the legislation about six weeks ago, but it has it gained widespread attention only recently. Taylor said Akin is very concerned about "sanctity of life" issues and was approached by several organizations troubled by the lack of documentation for the bodies on display.
Taylor said the legislation would not ban exhibitions of plastinated bodies altogether, but it would prevent the importation of such bodies. Individuals in the United States who want to donate their bodies to the exhibition still would be free to do so.
"Yes, you would be able to display bodies if you had the proper documentation within the U.S.," Taylor said. "(Akin)'s not going to take a position on whether you should or shouldn't display bodies. He's not saying, 'Let's not do it,' or make a moral judgment of it, but the upshot is if you are going to display bodies ... let's make sure they are donated freely."
The bill amends the tariffs act to prevent importation of the remains. Those violating the law would face civil and criminal penalties, including up to $10,000 for each intentional violation and $5,000 for grossly negligent violations.
"Bodies" is now showing in Copenhagen, Denmark. The exhibit has also appeared in Washington, D.C.; New York; Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; San Diego; Vienna, Austria, and Madrid, Spain.
FOX News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.