The National Institutes of Health chief contradicted a leading scientist who told Congress Thursday that aborted baby body parts are not necessary for scientific advances.
Francis Collins, director of the NIH, an agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defended the taxpayer-funded grants that his agency gives to groups that use aborted baby parts in their research, Science Magazine reports. These include research involving tissue harvested from viable, healthy late-term aborted babies.
“There is strong evidence that scientific benefits can come from fetal tissue research, which can be done with an ethical framework,” Collins said.
However, he did admit that the Trump administration’s decision to invest in ethical alternatives to fetal tissue is “scientifically, highly justified.”
Here’s more from the report:
Collins told reporters “there are certain areas where it’s hard to imagine that we would know what we know without the access to fetal tissue,” such as work on how the Zika virus infects brain cells and causes microcephaly in utero. He said the administration, led by Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, simply “wants to assure the skeptics about the value of fetal tissue research [and] that this is being done according to all the appropriate regulations, guidelines, and oversight.”
“Even for somebody who is very supportive of the pro-life position, you can make a strong case for this being an ethical stance,” Collins told reporters. “That if something can be done with these tissues that might save somebody’s life downstream, perhaps that’s a better choice than discarding them.”
Asked what will happen if HHS determines the contracts did not meet those regulations, Collins said: “I guess we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it.”
On Thursday, however, Tara Sander Lee, Ph.D. provided testimony to the contrary during a U.S. Congressional hearing.
“We do not need fetal body parts from aborted babies to achieve future scientific and medical advancements. Very little research is actually being done that currently relies on abortion – derived fetal tissue,” Dr. Lee said.
Lee is an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and did post-doctorate work at both Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in molecular and cell biology, later establishing her own lab to study congenital heart disease and vascular disorders in children.
Lee added: “In the case of vaccines, cells derived from aborted fetal tissue have been used in the development process, but fetal tissues have NEVER been the exclusive means necessary
for these breakthroughs. Instead, monkey cells, chicken eggs, and non – fetal human cells are used to produce vaccines for polio, measles, and mumps. The vast majority of scientists are focusing on other ethical tissue sources and models that work just as well, if not better. If we stopped harvesting fresh tissues from aborted fetuses today, it will not stop one person from being treated or vaccinated today nor will it inhibit the development of new vaccines going forward.
“After over 100 years of research, NO therapies have been discovered or developed that require aborted fetal tissue. History has shown us that we never needed fetal tissue,” Lee said.
“Modern alternatives have overtaken any need for fresh fetal tissue,” added Dr. David Prentice, vice president and research director the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
On Monday, the Trump administration issued a plan to promote ethical alternatives to aborted baby body parts in scientific research.
New grants through the NIH will provide $20 million to develop alternatives to “human fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions,” according to the notice published Monday by HHS.
Over the past few months, pro-life groups and conservative news outlets have been uncovering new details about government spending on aborted baby parts for research. Some of these contracts have used tax dollars to pay for body parts of healthy, late-term aborted babies – including potentially viable unborn babies up to 24 weeks. The NIH, an agency under HHS, has given about $100 million to these research contracts.
The Trump administration has been exploring options to end the contracts and support research that uses ethical alternatives. And in September, it canceled a Food and Drug Administration contract to acquire body parts from aborted babies to be transplanted into mice.
This new move signals the administration is continuing to address the problem.
According to the HHS notice, the NIH soon will seek “applications to develop and/or further refine human tissue models that closely mimic and can be used to accurately model human embryonic development or other aspects of human biology and that do not rely on the use of human fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions.”