The Trump Administration Is Making Lifesaving Fetal Tissue Research Almost Impossible

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced a new curtailing of federal spending on research using fetal tissue, according to the New York Times. The new rules will make it extremely difficult for this research, which many scientists say is vital, to find a way forward. It aims to entirely end fetal tissue research within the National Institutes of Health.

From the Times:

Besides ending N.I.H. research, the Department of Health and Human Services said it would immediately cancel a $2 million-a-year contract with the University of California, San Francisco, for research involving fetal tissue from abortions; the contract started in 2013. Other university research projects would be subject to case-by-case review.

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

Research using fetal tissue that’s currently being conducted at universities with NIH grants will be allowed to continue until its funding runs out. In the future, an ethics advisory board appointed by the Health and Human Services secretary will be responsible for reviewing funding for individual projects.

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The NIH currently only uses a small portion of its funding to conduct this kind of research—$100 million of its $37 billion annual budget last year, according to the Times.

Sam Hawgood, the University of California, San Francisco chancellor, said in a statement that “today’s action ends a 30-year partnership with the N.I.H. to use specially designed models that could be developed only through the use of fetal tissue to find a cure for H.I.V. U.C.S.F. exercised appropriate oversight and complied with all state and federal laws.”

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“We believe this decision to be politically motivated, shortsighted and not based on sound science,” he added.

“It will affect everything from cures for cancer and H.I.V. through to Parkinson’s and dementia,” Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor of public health at Georgetown University told the Times. “The ban on fetal tissue research is akin to a ban on hope for millions of Americans suffering from life-threatening and debilitating diseases. It will also severely impact the National Institutes of Health, universities and other researchers, who will lose key funding for their laboratories and their vital work.”

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The issue of using tissue from aborted fetuses for research has been the topic of outrage and conspiracy theories from the anti-choice movement, spurred by misleading reporting from right-wing journalists. Trump’s administration has capitalized on this moral panic by promising to ban the practice.

In response to pressure from the anti-choice movement, Trump administration has created new regulations that include preventing health providers who refer patients to abortion clinics from receiving federal funding and creating rules that allow providers to refuse to provide medical care on account of their who “conscience.”

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Of course, anti-abortion groups were thrilled by the decision.

“Most Americans do not want their tax dollars creating a marketplace for aborted baby body parts, which are then implanted into mice and used for experimentation,” Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life, told the Times. “This type of research involves the gross violation of basic human rights and certainly the government has no business funding it.”

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As absurd as these claims are, the power of the abortion lobby is a depressing reality. To that end, the NIH said in December it would spend $20 million over the next two years on finding alternatives to fetal tissue to use in research. But many scientists say there is no alternative.

“Claims that other cells can be used to replace fetal tissue in biomedical research are patently incorrect,” a letter sent by dozens of scientists and medical groups to HHS secretary Alex M. Azar II in December reads . “While there have been some advances in recent years that have reduced the need for fetal tissue in certain areas of research, it remains critically important in many other areas.”

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Read the rest of the story over at the New York Times.

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