After a medical blogger revealed this week that retired pediatric neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson participated in research in which tissue from two spontaneous abortions were used, Carson explained that he took no part in actually studying the tissue and defended the practice of using fetal tissue to advance science and medicine.
On Wednesday, Dr. Jen Gunter, an obstetrician-gynecologist who has previously appeared in USA Today, posted on her blog an excerpt of a 1992 collaborative research paper that lists Carson as one of four authors.
The research, which is titled Colloid Cysts of the Third Ventricle: Immunohistochemical evidence for nonneuropithelial differentiation, used tissue samples from nine and 17-week spontaneous abortions that were taken from pathology labs.
As Carson has been among the many Republican presidential candidates to speak out against Planned Parenthood in the wake of its ongoing aborted baby parts compensation video scandal, Carson told Fox News Thursday night that his role in the research was to provide discarded tissue from the operations, not to study fetal tissue.
"Well I have not actually worked with fetal tissue. The left has put information that I have done research on fetal tissues because my name appears on an article in which the pathologists compared specimens that I deliver from the operating room to fetal tissues," Carson explained. "My part is to do the operation and supply the tissue. At that point, I move on the next operations. To suggest that I am in the laboratory actually doing the research or retrieving fetal tissue is nothing but propaganda."
Carson also explained that fetal tissues used in pathology labs tend to come from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies and added that pathology labs consistently stock specimens from "day one of conception until 99 years." He added that he is not opposed to the use of fetal tissue in research.
"To not use the tissue that is in a tissue bank, regardless of where it comes from, would be foolish. Why would anybody not do that?" Carson said in an interview with CNN.
Carson, who said earlier this week that he opposes abortion and labeled the argument of abortion to save a mother's life "spurious," added that believing in the value of tissue research does not conflict with his staunch pro-life views. Additionally, Carson explained that he has not participated in researched that used fetal tissue since 1992.
"You have to look at the intent," Carson asserted in an interview with The Washington Post. "To willfully ignore evidence that you have for some ideological reason is wrong. If you're killing babies and taking the tissue, that's a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it."
Although Carson defended the research, he previously said in July that the benefits of fetal tissue research have been "under-delivered" and "over-promised." He added that "there's nothing that can't be done without fetal tissue."
"How does one explain this given Carson's stand on fetal tissue research?" Gunter asked in her blog. "Perhaps Dr. Carson feels that only his work delivered the goods and all other researchers have produced inconsequential work, an Ebola vaccine clearly not of merit by Carson's logic. Could he think his own research was useless? However, if it was non contributory to the field why was it published?"
In The Washington Post interview, Carson seemingly took a more favoring stance on fetal tissue research and Planned Parenthood's tissue distribution than he did earlier in July.
He was asked whether he thinks Planned Parenthood's aborted baby parts distribution practices should be halted. Although Carson believes that Planned Parenthood should be stripped of its annual federal funding of over $500 million, the doctor said he believes fetal tissue research should continue.
"I may not be completely objective about Planned Parenthood because I know how they started with Margaret Sanger who believed in eugenics," Carson explained. "But, it would be good for the public to understand this whole aspect of medical research."
Carson's comment seems to allude to allegations that Planned Parenthood and its partners are pressuring mothers into getting abortions just so the companies can benefit off the tissue compensation.
Although Carson stated that it would be "foolish" not to use the aborted baby tissue that is already at his disposal, that argument might not sit well with some pro-lifers, as Religion News Service's David Gibson points out.
Gibson cites a research article entitled The Ethics of Fetal Tissue Transplantation written by Scott Rae of the Christian Research Institute, who reasoned that the argument that a fetus is already dead and should be used for good could lead down a "slippery slope."
"Though the 'slide down the slippery slope' can likely be stopped in the short term, given the promise of the technology, it is doubtful that long-term pressures can be resisted to allow women to conceive in order to abort and thus donate the tissue," Rae wrote. "As interest groups — many of whom testified before the NIH Panel — become more dependent on the tissue, they will likely begin to press their 'rights' to the tissue, further complicating the ability of society to stop the descent down the slippery slope before it reaches a place that only the most extreme proponents advocate."
"There are thus possibilities for abuse about which even the more moderate advocates are wary," Rae added.
Gunter supports abortion and previously claimed, in an op-ed for the liberal publication The New Republic, that unborn babies are not babies at all, and complained that pro-lifers are trying to "anthropomorphize" unborn babies.