President Trump’s Bioethics Panel Rejects 13 Projects Using Body Parts From Aborted Babies

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 19, 2020   |   12:37PM   |   Washington, DC

A new bioethics advisory board appointed by President Donald Trump released its first report Tuesday, recommending that the government reject funding for 13 of 14 research projects that plan to use aborted baby body parts.

The New York Times called the board’s recommendations to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex M. Azar II a “de facto government ban” on funding scientific research that uses cells from aborted babies.

The recommendations are good news. Pro-life leaders have been urging the Trump administration to stop using tax dollars to fund unethical research for years. Under the Obama administration, millions of tax dollars were used to fund disturbing research studies, including one to create “humanized mice” with tissue from potentially viable aborted babies.

The Trump administration canceled that contract, and it has been taking other steps to stop funding unethical research, including through the formation of the new advisory board.

The board examined 14 research grant proposals based on “the scientific justification for the use and quantity of HFT [human fetal tissue] proposed and the use of alternate models” as well as whether there was adequate informed consent for the mothers donating it, according to the report.

By a majority vote, it rejected recommending all but one of the requests for funding. Among their concerns were a study that was “too interwoven with the practice of abortion” and others that could have used tissue from miscarried babies instead.

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The board report noted that many members expressed support for the research projects if they only would use ethically derived materials instead.

“During discussion of a number of the proposals for which the majority of members ultimately voted to recommend withholding funds, some members expressed support for particular projects should the portion(s) involving HFT be removed,” the report states. “In particular, this was true of several projects that proposed direct comparison to models derived from human fetal tissue as encouraged in recent NIH solicitations focusing on research to develop, demonstrate and validate alternate experimental human tissue models.”

Notably, in 2018, HHS created a new $20 million grant to invest in ethical alternatives to aborted baby parts in scientific research. It was part of the Trump administration’s plan to support scientific advances and encourage scientists to use ethically-derived materials to do so.

The final grant proposal that the board recommended approval of is in line with this goal. According to Buzz Feed News, the scientists in that project hope to develop alternatives to tissue from aborted babies for research projects. They plan to use cells already “stored in a bio-repository and collected according to guidelines, with no need to acquire additional tissue for the planned studies,” the report states.

The report goes to HHS Secretary Azar, who is expected to accept the recommendations.

Two board members who were not named in the report did include a written dissent of the recommendations.

“This board was clearly constituted … so as to include a large majority of members who are on the public record as being opposed to human fetal tissue research of any type,” they said. “This was clearly an attempt to block funding of as many contracts and grants as possible.”

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 president then appointed scientists and bioethics experts who believe babies in the womb deserve basic human rights to the board.

Abortion activists and liberal news outlets have accused the board of being biased, but even some critics admitted that the board members include “real scientists” and bioethicists who understand the importance of research.

Earlier this summer, Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony List, said 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 Trump administration has been listening to pro-life advocates’ pleas to stop using taxpayer funding for research using aborted baby body parts through the National Institutes of Health (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.

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.”

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.