Pro-life groups laud Trump ethics board for rejecting fetal tissue research proposals

Ethics board rejects 13 fetal research proposals, but approves 1

Woman holds ultrasound images
Woman holds ultrasound images | Getty Images/Westend61

Pro-life groups praised the Trump administration this week after a federal ethics advisory board recommended against federal funding of fetal tissue research, saying tiny humans should not be aborted for exploitation.

“We applaud the Trump administration for convening the independent advisory board as established by statute,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said in a statement, referring to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Fetal Tissue Research Advisory Board.

In its report on fetal tissue research, released this week, the board recommended that all but one of the grant proposals for federally-funded medical research using human fetal tissue donated after elective abortions be rejected.

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The board was set up by the Trump administration last year to review applications for funding of such research conducted outside of NIH facilities. It recommended withholding federal funding from 13 out of 14 research proposals — through grants or contracts — involving the use of fetal tissue.

“It is appropriate that tax-funded research be reviewed in regard to the ethical nature of the research,” Tobias said. “These tiny humans are aborted and exploited when they are farmed for their organs and tissue for use in research projects. Ethical alternatives are available.”

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, who heads the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, also applauded the recommendation.

“We applaud the Administration for moving NIH in a direction that shows greater consideration for medical ethics in research, and greater respect for innocent human life,” Naumann said in a statement. “It is neither ethical nor necessary to further violate the bodies of aborted babies by commodifying them for use in medical research.” 

The archbishop said the victims of abortion “deserve the same respect as every other human person.” 

“We are grateful that the Administration is following through on its commitment to end federal funding of research using aborted fetal tissue,” he added.

The board said it "assessed considerations as to whether the nature of the research involved is such that it is unethical to conduct or support the research."

The board's recommendations have been submitted to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Congress. Azar will make the final decision.

The details of the proposal that was not recommended to be withheld are not known.

Last June, HHS put a moratorium on new fetal tissue research at NIH facilities, and said that funding of “extramural” research conducted outside NIH would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, The Christian Post reported. 

“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” HHS said at the time.

The HHS also said it’s continuing to look at alternatives to using fetal tissue from aborted babies in government-funded research. In December 2018, the NIH announced a $20 million funding opportunity for research to develop experimental models that do not rely on human fetal tissue from aborted babies.

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