Scientists Defend Using Body Parts From Aborted Babies in Their Experiments

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MICAIAH BILGER

Some scientists are not happy with the Trump administration for restricting the use of aborted baby body parts in their taxpayer-funded research.

Talking with The Scientist recently, they complained about the impact of the policy changes on their experiments, funding and future.

“The fetal tissue that we’re talking about—if we don’t use it for research, it will be discarded,” said University of California San Diego scientist Lawrence Goldstein, who sometimes uses aborted baby parts in his research. “That’s the choice. Discard the fetal tissue in the trash, or use it for valuable research.”

But that “tissue” comes from human beings, unborn babies whose lives were destroyed in abortions. Some states, prohibited from banning abortions under Roe v. Wade, are trying to at least provide dignity to aborted babies in death by requiring a proper burial or cremation.

The Trump administration also has been working to restore dignity to the unborn child by ending the unethical practice of using aborted baby body parts in taxpayer-funded research. Earlier this month, it announced the formation of a new ethics board to oversee the matter within the National Institutes of Health. Last summer, the NIH introduced new requirements for taxpayer-funded research grants, including detailed explanations from scientists about why they want to use tissue from aborted babies rather than ethically-obtained materials.

The rules apply to tissue and cell lines taken from baby parts from elective abortions only; human tissue donated from miscarried babies and other ethical sources are not subject to the rules.

Microbiologist Carolyn Coyne at the University of Pittsburgh expressed frustration about the future. She told The Scientist that she uses cells from aborted babies to study how viruses penetrate the placenta, but she is concerned about future funding for her research.

“It’s impacted almost all of the facets of the lab,” Coyne said.

Some scientists, like Thomas Reh, a biologist at the University of Washington, have found private donors to fund their research, according to the report. But other scientists noted that not all private foundations will fund research using aborted baby body parts either.

In California, politicians are trying to counteract the Trump policies with their own funding. According to the report: “In California, the state’s stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has provided funding for stem cell studies using fetal tissue since it was founded in 2004. That fund is about to run out, but a bill that would provide $5.5 billion in funding to CIRM will come before voters in November.”

Scientists have ethical alternatives, including cells from miscarried babies and pluripotent stem cells, which do not involve destroying human lives. The Trump administration also has been investing in alternative materials. In 2018, it announced a new $20 million grant for exactly that purpose.

But Anita Bhattacharyya, a stem cell scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Waisman Center, complained that tissue from miscarried babies is harder to get and often is not intact, according to the report. Bhattacharyya has used brain tissue from aborted babies in her research on Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome, the report states.

Mana Parast, a stem cell and placental biologist at the University of California San Diego, argued that pluripotent stem cells “are fairly new and not yet broadly accepted, it is still necessary to validate them with cells from human placentas,” the report continues.

Goldstein expressed concerns about the new NIH ethics board refusing grants for research using aborted baby body parts.

“[We’ll] see whether the administration is going to act in good faith and appoint a decent ethics review committee, or if they’re going to ignore the value of the scientific and medical research that needs to be done in this area and let ideology weigh out over logic,” he said.

But ethics in research is important, and other scientists contend that aborted baby parts are not necessary in scientific studies.

“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,” said Tara Sander Lee, Ph.D., an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

In 2018, Sander Lee told Congress that cells from aborted babies never have been the exclusive means necessary for breakthroughs in vaccines and other medical advancements. 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.”

Other scientific researchers also have said aborted baby body parts are unnecessary for scientific research.

Over the past several years, the Trump administration has been listening to pro-life leaders’ pleas to stop using taxpayer funding for research using aborted baby body parts.

In December, it 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.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 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 the past, the federal government has given hundreds of millions of dollars to fund research using aborted baby parts. Pro-life groups and conservative news outlets have been uncovering new details about government spending on this unethical research. Some of the government 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.

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 aborted 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.

Several years ago, the Center for Medical Progress undercover investigation raise 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.

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