In the beginning of June, President Donald Trump’s administration quietly shifted the government’s policy on the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions for scientific research.
The decision from the White House came after a 2018 letter signed by numerous pro-life organizations, including March for Life Action, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Concerned Women for America, urging the federal government to stop allowing research on fetal tissue for moral and ethical reasons.
Pro-life groups sent the letter to the Trump administration after learning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had signed a contract with a company called Advanced Bioscience Resources, which was supplying the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with fetal tissue for research purposes. That contract was terminated in late September 2018.
The letter urged the government to “find ethical alternatives as soon as possible” and to “end all association with those who participate in any trafficking or procurement of aborted baby organs.”
“No taxpayer dollars should continue to go to this gruesome practice,” the letter continued. “It is our hope that these reforms would start with you and HHS — and start today.”
In early June, following an extensive review and audit, HHS announced plans to change its policies regarding research involving human fetal tissue, deciding to discontinue studies “that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions.”
“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” the HHS statement read.
Moving forward, any new grants will be subject to a review by an ethics board to determine whether the National Institutes of Health should fund the research in question. It should be noted scientists working with fetal tissue already acquired and funded can continue their research.
On June 5, as a result of the policy shift, HHS did not renew its contract with scientists from the University of California, San Francisco who have been using the tissue to create humanized mice, which are altered to mimic a human immune system.
Democratic and Republican administrations have been debating this issue for several years.
Vice President Mike Pence, when he was governor of Indiana, criminalized fetal tissue research in his state.
Eight other states have instituted similarly tight restrictions on fetal tissue research while others have required consent or prohibited altogether the opportunity to profit from fetal tissue.