Trump Administration Imposes New Restrictions on Fetal Tissue Research

June 5, 2019 by Dan McCue

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it will sharply reduce the amount of federal money supporting medical research that relies on tissue from aborted fetuses, handing a significant victory to anti-abortion groups who had lobbied for such a decision for years.

In a statement posted to its website Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it is immediately ending a $2 million-a-year program with the University of California, San Francisco, for research using fetal tissue from elective abortions.

The department went on to say that based on a review that began last fall, it is also ending about 200 research projects conducted by federal scientists at the National Institutes of Health that involve fetal tissue from elective abortions.

In announcing the changes, HHS explained that “promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration.”

In addition to unveiling the new restrictions, the department said it is continuing to conduct a comprehensive review of all research involving fetal tissue “to ensure consistency with statutes and regulations governing such research, and to ensure the adequacy of procedures and oversight of this research in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.”

It also said it will carry out ethics reviews on government-funded research at universities and other scientific centers that propose to use fetal tissue.

Federal funding of such research became a hot-button issue four years ago after a group opposed to a woman’s right to make her own health decisions, released videos purportedly showing Planned Parenthood profiting from sale of the tissues.

Planned Parenthood sued, contending the videos were edited to be intentionally misleading, and a Texas grand jury subsequently cleared the agency of any wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, the group behind the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, released a statement saying “President Trump is showing transformative leadership by directing his pro-life administration to end the unconscionable taxpayer funding of fetal experimentation.

“Americans across the country are experiencing a revolution of consciousness about the human atrocity of industrial-scale, taxpayer-funded abortion and infanticide. Now is the time for the U.S. Department of Justice and regulatory authorities to hold entities like Planned Parenthood who traffic in aborted baby body parts accountable under the law,” the group said.

Meanwhile Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, another anti-abortion group, said “most Americans do not want their tax dollars creating a marketplace for aborted baby body parts which are then implanted into mice and used for experimentation.

“This type of research involves the gross violation of basic human rights and certainly the government has no business funding it,” Mancini said.

But in an interview with The New York Times, Lawrence Gusting, a professor of public health law at Georgetown University, said the administration’s actions on Wednesday would “devastate” critical medical research.

“It will affect everything from cures for cancer and H.I.V. through to Parkinson’s and dementia,” Gusting told the Times. “The ban on fetal tissue research is akin to a ban on hope for millions of Americans suffering from life threatening and debilitating diseases.

“It will also severely impact the National Institutes of Health, universities, and other researchers, who will lose key funding for their laboratories and their vital work,” he said.

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