Pro-life groups praise Trump for ending ‘inhumane’ practice of using aborted babies for research

A pro-life activist holds a doll and banner while advocating his stance on abortion near the site of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 4, 2012.
A pro-life activist holds a doll and banner while advocating his stance on abortion near the site of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 4, 2012. | REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Pro-life groups are hailing the Trump administration’s decision Wednesday to end the federal government’s practice of using tissue from aborted babies for medical research.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health will not renew a contract with the University of California, San Francisco, for fetal tissue. The contract effectively ended today following an audit and review of all HHS research involving human fetal tissue from abortions. 

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, thanked the president on Twitter, calling the move “the only humane response possible to the abortion industry’s trafficking in infant remains.”

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Hawkins said Students for Life and other pro-life groups have been urging the federal government to find ethical alternatives when doing medical research, “especially as we’ve learned that fetal remains are not needed for research,” she added.

The administration’s decision means there will be no new acquisitions of fetal tissue from aborted babies for research at the HHS and NIH. However, pre-approved government-sponsored research projects at universities will be allowed to continue through their approved project period.

An ethics advisory board will also be set up to review new research grant applications and current research projects in the renewal process that propose using fetal tissue from abortions to determine whether the NIH should fund the projects, the HHS added.

The policy change will not affect privately funded research that uses the tissue, organs and limbs of aborted babies.

Maureen L. Condic, an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, who conducts research on human stem cells, previously wrote in National Review that a search of the NIH-administered database of clinical trials for the terms “fetal stem cell” returned “only 21 currently funded human trials (only two of which actually involve transplantation of fetal stem cells), compared with 5,072 trials using non-fetal cells. Science has indeed spoken — but not in support of fetal-stem cell research,” Condic asserted.

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.

“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” the HHS added in a statement.

In March, a student at a Catholic school in Kentucky refused to be vaccinated for chickenpox because it contains “aborted fetal cells." Because of that decision, the Northern Kentucky Health Department barred him from playing basketball, so he sued the department for violating his right to freedom of religion, The New York Times reported. 

Last year, pro-life groups called for the resignation of NIH Director Francis Collins after he argued in favor of the use of fetal tissue in medical research. 

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins lauded the administration’s decision, saying, "The fact is aborted fetal tissue hasn't been used to create the cure of a single disease. However, tax dollars have been contributing to an industry that fosters the trafficking of body parts from aborted babies.

“There is absolutely no reason to use these grisly remains when ethical and effective alternatives exist including human umbilical cord blood stem cells and adult peripheral blood stem cells,” he added.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford said the administration has made an “important ethical and moral decision that will help shape our future as a nation to protect the life and dignity of every person."

“We cannot in one moment say that an unborn child is not a person but then recognize the humanity and value for the purpose of research," he added. "The only difference between a child growing in the womb and a 2-year-old is time. Just because we call one unborn and one a toddler doesn’t mean one has greater value over the other.”

Last year, Lankford joined 16 other senators to urge Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to cancel its contract with Advance Bioscience Resources to acquire “fresh human fetal tissue” for research led by the FDA. 

Amid pressure from pro-life groups, last September the HHS terminated the FDA's contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources for fetal tissue. 

The contract with the California-based fetal supply organization, one of the oldest of its kind in the United States, was worth nearly $16,000. The contract was agreed upon on July 25, 2018, for the FDA to acquire "fresh" fetal tissue to transplant into "humanized mice" in order to "create chimeric animals that have a human immune system."

The contract came under fire from 45 pro-life organizations that have largely supported the president, as well as 85 members of the House of Representatives.

After the HHS terminated that contract it initiated a comprehensive review of all government-funded research involving fetal tissue.

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