First US Law Countering Beijing’s Forced Organ Harvesting Enacted in Texas

By Eva Fu
Eva Fu
Eva Fu
Reporter
Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S. politics, U.S.-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Contact Eva at eva.fu@epochtimes.com
June 19, 2023Updated: July 3, 2023

Texas has signed into law a bipartisan bill to combat the Chinese regime’s criminal practice of forced organ harvesting, making it the first U.S. state to counter the abuse through legal means.

As of Sept. 1, it will be illegal in the state for health insurance providers to fund organ transplants using organs originating from China or any other country that’s known to have involvement in the practice of forced organ harvesting. The bill (SB 1040), which was approved unanimously in both the state’s legislative chambers in May, was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 18.

Under the Chinese regime’s watch, the practice of forcibly harvesting vital organs from living individuals for profit has grown into a flourishing industry and has added to the abuse of vulnerable groups such as detained adherents of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong, a faith group with tens of millions of followers that has faced a relentless persecution campaign by Beijing since 1999.

“While we in Texas do not have the full power to stop this practice globally, I wanted to make sure we begin to do everything we can control to cut off the demand and money that is fueling this in China and other countries,” the bill’s lead author, state Sen. Lois W. Kolkhorst, told The Epoch Times. She’s hopeful that the bill, having received unanimous support by Republicans and Democrats alike, will “inspire Congress and other states to act with similar legislation.”

Texas State Sen Lois Kolkhorst
Texas state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst speaks at a press conference highlighting the Chinese regime’s forced organ harvesting, in Austin, Texas, on March 29, 2023, in a still from a video. (The Epoch Times)

Republican state Rep. Tom Oliverson, a primary sponsor of the legislation, praised Abbott for “allowing Texas to be the first to take a strong stand against the immoral and detestable practice of forced organ donations in China.”

“With this law, we send a strong message to Beijing that all human life is precious and worthy of protection,” he told The Epoch Times.

Oliverson recalled having met years ago with Falun Gong practitioners, who showed him websites of hospitals in China advertising to the world that live donors were standing by as the country’s medical sector looked to attract organ transplant tourists.

“I was just horrified. Just absolutely, unbelievably horrified,” he said.

While Oliverson has worked to advocate for organ transplantation ethics in the United States to make sure that people are voluntary donors, he said he has “never seen a case where somebody who was conscious, awake, and able to sign a consent on their own … was being forced to be an organ donor.”

“That just sounded like something out of a movie,” he said.

Kolkhorst has worked with witnesses who shared their encounters with forced organ harvesting. One victim, she said, had shared her personal experience in public hearings with such detail that everyone who heard her in the room was moved to tears.

“Her story will stay with me forever,” she said.

Since his meeting with Falun Gong adherents, Oliverson has since worked to advance several other measures, including SCR 3, a resolution that was unanimously adopted in April 2021 to condemn Beijing’s “vile practice of forcibly removing human organs for transplant.” In March, he co-introduced TX HB3914, a bill aiming to bar the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the state’s cancer research funder, from giving grant money to an applicant who might source an organ from a hospital in China.

Rep Tom Oliverson
Texas state Rep. Tom Oliverson speaks at a press conference highlighting the Chinese regime’s forced organ harvesting, in Austin, Texas, on March 29, 2023, in a still from a video. (The Epoch Times)

Oliverson said that stopping health insurers from putting their funding behind China-sourced organs is key in shutting off such nonconsensual organ transplant tourism. Having organ transplant surgery is so expensive that an overwhelming majority of Americans rely on health insurance to do so.

The idea, he said, is to “basically choke off the ability” for someone to get paid for participating in the abuse in China or anywhere else in the world.

“The best way to be successful in terms of shutting it off is to make it not economically successful for a country that doesn’t view human beings as human beings, but obviously sees them as a source of revenue,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Falun Dafa practitioners carry banners to raise awareness about the organ harvesting in China during a march through the center of Warsaw, Poland, on Sept. 9, 2022. (Mihut Savu/The Epoch Times)

Kolkhorst believes that the newly enacted anti-forced organ harvesting bill, which built on SCR 3, “has brought about badly needed awareness” among the general public.

“I received many comments from constituents that they had no idea that this was happening anywhere in the world and they were almost in disbelief,” she said. “We must do more to bring attention to this horrific atrocity occurring in our modern world. It’s almost unthinkable that the United Nations and the World Health Organization would not be at the forefront of condemnation.”

The issue has been gaining more attention beyond the human rights circle. In late March, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to punish perpetrators in forced organ harvesting. The Texas senator said she was pleased to see such developments.

“Quite frankly, I cannot believe that this legislation would not pass in the US Senate and be signed into law by President Biden,” she said. “Congress needs to repudiate the wrongful imprisonment and forced organ harvesting of Uyghurs and other Muslims, members of Falun Gong, House Church Christians, and other religious peoples by the Chinese regime. Anything short of this is a condoning of these horrific, unthinkable acts.”

AUSTRIA-CHINA-DEMO-ORGANS
Adherents of Falun Gong reenact the forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience by the Chinese regime at a protest in Vienna, Austria on Oct. 1, 2018. (Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

But the lawmakers see more work to be done.

Oliverson hopes that other states will enact their own versions of this law to combat this abuse of fellow humans. He said he wants to bring this legislation to conferences of state legislatures and present it as model legislation for other states to consider.

“I’d like to see this be something that passes in all 50 states. That would be my ultimate goal—to have all Americans standing united against this detestable practice,” he said.

“If all 50 states have this prohibition, then essentially no American dollars will be going to Chinese hospitals that are participating in organ trafficking, so they won’t be able to pay for it.”