Scientists and bioethics experts who believe babies in the womb deserve basic human rights are leading a new advisory board investigating the use of aborted baby body parts in government-funded research.
The Trump administration established the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board earlier this year amid calls to end the unethical practice of using aborted baby body parts in taxpayer-funded research.
The Scientist reports President Donald Trump appointed the 15 board members, and at least 10 of them are pro-life. The board met for the first time July 31.
They include Paige Comstock Cunningham, an attorney and former leader of Americans United for Life, a leading pro-life advocacy group. Cunningham is the chair of the committee, according to the report.
Dr. David A. Prentice, a biochemist, vice president and research director at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, also serves on the board. Prentice is an expert on stem cell research and other life-related issues. The Charlotte Lozier Institute is the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
Others members include Ingrid Skop, a Texas OB-GYN and board member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Greg Burke, a co-chair of the Catholic Medical Association ethics committee.
The new ethics board is made up of 15 non-government employees, including doctors, scientists, ethicists, attorneys and theologians. Its task is to research the use of aborted baby body parts in taxpayer-funded scientific research and make ethical recommendations about it. The board will create a final report with recommendations for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar.
One member of the board, Lawrence Goldstein, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, supports the use of aborted baby body parts in research and has used it in his research on Alzheimer’s disease, according to the report. Four other members have not made any public statements about the issue or abortion, the report states.
In a comment to Science Magazine, R. Alta Charo, a lawyer and bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, complained that the board is “stacked” with pro-lifers who oppose research using tissue from aborted babies. However, he admitted that its members include “real scientists” who understand the importance of research.
Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony List, told the magazine that they believe the board is properly balanced. She pointed to past expert panels on “similar topics” that “have leaned heavily toward people in favor of abortion on demand and research that destroys embryos.”
The other board members are Maureen Condic, a biologist at the University of Utah who is affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute; G. Kevin Donovan, a pediatrician and bioethics director at Georgetown University; Ashley Fernandes, a pediatrician and bioethicist at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Nationwide Children’s Hospital; Ashwini Lakshmanan, a neonatologist at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California; Thomas Meade, an inorganic chemist and molecular imaging expert at Northwestern University; C. Ben Mitchell, a professor of moral philosophy at Union University; Susan Kay Murphy, an epigeneticist who studies gynecological malignancies at the Duke University Medical Center; Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a neuroscientist, Catholic priest and director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center; Kathleen Marie Schmainda, a biophysicist at the Medical College of Wisconsin; and H. Joseph Yost, a developmental geneticist at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
The Trump administration has been listening to pro-life advocates’ pleas to stop using taxpayer funding for research using aborted baby body parts through the NIH.
In December, Trump officials ended a contract between the NIH and the University of California San Francisco that was using aborted baby body parts to create “humanized mice” for medical experimentation. A few months earlier, the NIH introduced new rules restricting taxpayer-funded research that uses aborted babies’ body parts.
In 2018, HHS also created a new $20 million grant to invest in ethical alternatives to aborted baby parts.
Some scientists have complained about the Trump administration’s changes. But others say research using human fetal tissue has not been successful. Researchers at the Charlotte Lozier Institute said there are ethical alternatives available to scientists that do not involve the destruction of a human life.
A 2018 letter from HHS assistant secretary of health Brett Giroir said the Trump administration is “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.”
HHS also is conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to “ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations.”
In 2018, a CNS News report shed light on how taxpayers’ money is being spent on these ethically troubling experiments. It exposed the NIH contract with University of California San Francisco for 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.
Several years ago, the Center for Medical Progress undercover investigation raised concerns about potentially illegal sales of human body parts by Planned Parenthood. It also uncovered evidence of abortionists allegedly putting women’s lives at risk by altering abortion procedures to better harvest aborted baby parts. The investigators also found evidence of possible patient privacy violations.