Pro-life groups urged the Trump administration to take action this week after the chief of the National Institutes of Health defended taxpayer-funded research using aborted baby parts.
Last week, Francis Collins, director of the NIH, defended the grants with claims that fetal tissue research has “scientific benefits.” His statement contradicted other leading scientists, who said body parts from aborted babies are not necessary for scientific advances.
The Trump administration has been exploring options to end the contracts and support research that uses ethical alternatives. In September, it halted a Food and Drug Administration contract to acquire body parts from aborted babies to be transplanted into mice. Then, last week, it announced new grants to develop alternatives to “human fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions.”
Pro-life leaders said the NIH director should share the Trump administration’s goals.
“Francis Collins’ remarks to Science magazine [last] week put him at odds with HHS and the whole Trump Administration in the audit process and begs the question of whether anything can truly change while he’s in charge at NIH,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List.
“We urge HHS to correct his comments, which are dramatically out of step both with President Trump and the pro-life voters who elected him,” Dannenfelser continued.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, seconded the call.
“It’s clear that the pro-life conviction of President Trump is not shared by NIH Director Collins, who should no longer be allowed to waste taxpayer dollars on inhumane fetal tissue research,” she said. “We should no longer allow abortion vendors to profit from selling the body parts of infants who did not survive a visit to Planned Parenthood. A civil society does not traffic in human remains.”
Over the past few months, pro-life groups and conservative news outlets have uncovered 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 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has spent about $100 million on these research contracts, Politico reports.
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Collins defended the spending in an interview with Science Magazine last week.
“There is strong evidence that scientific benefits can come from fetal tissue research, which can be done with an ethical framework,” Collins said.
“Even for somebody who is very supportive of the pro-life position, you can make a strong case for this being an ethical stance,” he 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.”
Dannenfelser said that argument does not justify using body parts taken from innocent children who were slaughtered in the womb.
“There is absolutely no moral or ethical justification for treating these children like commodities to be chopped up and sold piece-by-piece to anyone – especially the federal government with taxpayers footing the bill,” she said.
“Pro-life voters across America reject the use of their tax dollars to purchase the ‘fresh’ body parts of unborn children and are looking for a pro-life policy change,” Dannenfelser continued. “These hearts, eyes, livers and brains belong to fellow members of the human family. They are ‘harvested’ following abortions that deprive these unborn boys and girls of their right to life.”
On Thursday, Tara Sander Lee, Ph.D. also provided testimony about the ethical alternatives available to scientists 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.
She said parts from aborted babies have been used in research for more than a century, but “no therapies have been discovered or developed that require aborted fetal tissue.”
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.”
Earlier this fall, 74 members of Congress urged the U.S. government to stop giving money to researchers who use aborted baby parts. Their letter came after 48 national and state pro-life leaders also urged HHS to end the practice.
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 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.”
Details uncovered by CNS News earlier this year shed light on an NIH contract with University of California San Francisco, 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.