Trump Administration Ends Government Use of Aborted Fetal Tissue for Research

June 5, 2019 Updated: June 5, 2019

The Trump administration announced on June 5 that it will discontinue federally-funded research that uses human fetal tissue from elective abortion conducted by government scientists, a move that demonstrates the president’s commitment to protecting life before birth.

“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement.

Along with blocking National Institutes of Health (NIH) research that uses fetal tissue, HHS also stated that it is notifying the University of California–San Francisco (UCSF), that it will not renew an existing contract with the university involving such research.

The USCF contract is the only intramural contract—research conducted within the NIH—to be identified in the statement. The department added that the decision will not apply to external research projects that receive NIH grants during their contract period. But new projects or current projects seeking renewal will be subjected to a stricter review process by the ethics review board.

The decision follows HHS’s audit and review into federal funding for research involving fetal tissue. The department launched the audit in September 2018 after it dropped a contract with a California-based fetal tissue provider, Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc., because it was “not sufficiently assured that the contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements.”

Advanced Bioscience Resources’s contract, which was worth nearly $16,000, was used to “develop testing protocols,” by injecting the tissue into lab mice, according to HHS.

The NIH has estimated that its contracts for research involving fetal tissue in fiscal year 2020 are worth about $104 million, according to its database.

The HHS’s decision was welcomed by many pro-life advocates like the national group Susan B. Anthony List.

The group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, thanked the president in a statement:

“This is a major pro-life victory and we thank President Trump for taking decisive action. It is outrageous and disgusting that we have been complicit, through our taxpayer dollars, in the experimentation using baby body parts. NIH has spent $120 million a year on grisly, unethical experiments involving the hearts, livers, bones, and brains harvested from babies too young and vulnerable to speak for themselves.”

“President Trump knows we can do better as a nation and we are encouraged to see NIH Director Francis Collins carry out the President’s pro-life commitment. Taxpayer funding is better spent promoting alternatives that are already being used in the production of treatments, vaccines, and medicines and to expand approaches that do not depend on the destruction of unborn children often through late-term abortion,” Dannenfelser added.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement that the administration has “once again done the right thing in restoring a culture of life to our government.”

Meanwhile, opponents of the decision say it will hamper medical research.

Pro-life groups have repeatedly pushed for the Trump administration to ban research using human fetal tissue from abortions. In 2018, advocates called for Trump to fire the Obama-appointed National Institutes of Health director, Dr. Francis Collins, for defending fetal tissue research.

“There is strong evidence that scientific benefits come from fetal tissue research, [which] can be done with [an] ethical framework,” Collins said, reported Science Mag. He added that such fetal tissue “will continue to be the mainstay.”

Trump has always demonstrated a “pro-life” stance since taking office. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence became the first president and vice president to address the March for Life in Washington in January 2018, and Trump proclaimed Jan. 22, 2018, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

In early May, HHS announced a final rule to protect health care groups and individuals from mandatory provision or participation in services they object to for religious or moral reasons like abortion, sterilization, and assisted suicide, according to HHS’s statement (pdf).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan
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