Scientists Bash Trump Admin for Stopping Contract to Buy Aborted Baby Parts for Research

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 10, 2018   |   4:37PM   |   Washington, DC

Several scientists complained this week about the Trump administration putting a halt to a taxpayer-funded research grant that used aborted baby parts.

Pro-life advocates have been putting pressure on the Trump administration to stop funding research projects that use aborted baby parts, and it appears the administration is listening. It canceled a Food and Drug Administration contract in September, and earlier this month, the administration sent word that it may not renew another.

Some of these contracts use tax dollars to purchase the body parts of late-term, healthy aborted babies and then create “humanized mice” for experiments. The Trump administration has said it is exploring ending troubling practice and promoting ethical alternatives instead.

But some scientists are not happy.

The Washington Post reports researcher Warner Greene blamed Trump for “pulling the rug out from under” his research on HIV. He called the matter “scientific censorship.”

Here’s more from the report:

A senior scientist at a National Institutes of Health laboratory in Montana told colleagues that the Health and Human Services Department “has directed me to discontinue procuring fetal tissue” from a firm that is the only available source, according to an email he sent to a collaborator in late September.

“This effectively stops all of our research to discover a cure for HIV,” the researcher wrote. …

The shutdown of the HIV research at the federal lab in Montana, first reported in the journal Science, was never disclosed publicly by government officials, who have forbidden affected researchers from discussing what happened. But colleagues say they are incensed by the action, which has fanned a controversy that pits the biomedical research community against anti-abortion activists and other social conservatives pressing the administration to stop the flow of federal grants and contracts for work involving fetal tissue. Such tissue comes from elective abortions.

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Greene, who runs an HIV research lab, planned to collaborate with the Montana lab, according to the report. He blasted the Trump administration move as a political “whim.”

“This is scientific censorship of the worst kind,” Greene said. “You spend your life trying to do good experiments and organize your science carefully, and suddenly, at the whim of some politicians in Washington, D.C., they remove a critical piece of your scientific armamentarium.”

Other scientists, however, point to evidence that research using human fetal tissue has been going on for decades but, by and large, it has not been successful. Dr. David Prentice and Tara Sander Lee of the Charlotte Lozier Institute said there are ethical alternatives available to scientists that do not involve the destruction of a human life.

Details uncovered by CNS News earlier this year shed light on a University of California San Francisco contract, which provides money for fetal body parts to conduct experiments involving “humanized mice.”

Aborted baby body parts used in the experiments were taken from healthy, later-term unborn babies. According to the report, the aborted babies were 18 to 24 weeks gestation from “women with normal pregnancies before elective termination for non-medical reasons.” Another article indicated aborted babies’ livers and thymuses also were used. They were between 20 weeks and 24 weeks gestation.

A 2017 journal article indicates researchers also used aborted babies’ intestines in their experiments.

In September, the Trump administration canceled an FDA contract to acquire body parts from aborted babies to be transplanted into mice. The now-canceled contract was with Advanced Bioscience Resources, a company that obtains aborted baby parts from Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses.

The NIH, an agency under HHS, has given about $100 million in research contracts to scientists who use aborted baby parts in their research. Pro-life groups have been urging the federal government to end the taxpayer-funded commoditization of human lives, but some scientists are pushing back with claims that fetal tissue from healthy aborted babies is the best material for their research.

Nonetheless, Trump administration leaders have been exploring options to end the contracts and support research that uses ethical alternatives.

A November letter from HHS assistant secretary of health Brett Giroir said they are “fully committed to prioritizing, expanding, and accelerating efforts to develop and implement the use of these alternatives.” He also said the department is “pro-life and pro-science.”

The Trump administration also said HHS is conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to “ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations.”

Pro-life groups have said more protections are needed to ensure the FDA and HHS do not sign other agreements to purchase aborted baby parts in the future. Earlier, 48 national and state pro-life leaders urged HHS to end the practice. Earlier this month, 74 members of Congress also urged the U.S. government to stop giving money to researchers who use aborted baby parts.