The Trump Administration is Restricting Fetal Tissue Research for No Good Reason June 5, 2019

The Trump Administration is Restricting Fetal Tissue Research for No Good Reason

One of the ironies regarding the abortion issue is that conservative Christians are among the biggest advocates of banning it while also benefitting from its legal existence.

Today, in a similar move meant to delight right-wing evangelicals while actually hurting them in the long run, the Trump administration announced new restrictions on federal research involving fetal tissue. Scientists at the NIH are now forbidden from conducting such research while a University of California contract to study HIV using the tissue has been canceled since the government was the only source of its funding.

To be clear, these fetal tissues would have been discarded after the procedure anyway, but the women involved said it could be used for research purposes. It’s not like they got paid for donating it (incentivizing abortions) or that the use of these tissues in research ever made it more likely that women would get abortions. In a way, it’s like signing up to donate your organs — why would you not?! Especially when giving them to scientists or other people could potentially save lives.

There’s no reason for the Department of Health and Human Services to take this step other than to give white evangelicals a chance to pat themselves on the back. In the process of making those Christians feel better about themselves, much-needed research will be halted or stifled.

Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor specializing in public health law at Georgetown University, said the new restrictions would “devastate” crucial medical research.

“It will affect everything from cures for cancer and H.I.V. through to Parkinson’s and dementia,” Mr. Gostin said. “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.”

As of last year, the N.I.H. spent about $100 million of its $37 billion annual budget on research projects involving fetal tissue. The tissue is used to test drugs, develop vaccines and study cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, blindness and other disorders. For much of that work, scientists say there is no substitute for fetal tissue.

This is not something researchers wanted or requested. There’s no medical or scientific benefit to this decision. Like everything this administration does to curtail abortion rights, it will only make the problems worse.

Indeed, just about all of the people publicly celebrating this decision are ones who routinely reject science in areas like sex, climate, and evolution, along with those whose obsession with blocking abortion means they take a scorched Earth position on anything that derives from the procedure, even if it means potentially saving the lives of countless people.

They’re only “pro-life” when it comes to a fetus. Everyone else can suffer.

Their desire to promote ignorance — which is all this restriction does — will ultimately lead to continued pain for millions of people. It’s not even a win for the “pro-life” side since this won’t do anything to prevent abortions!

This is what it looks like when a scientifically illiterate administration allows right-wing Christians to dictate public policy.

Incidentally, 66% of Americans say it’s “morally acceptable” to conduct medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos. Which is to say the public doesn’t want what the administration is doing, either. It’s really just a small but powerful bloc of evangelical Christians who see researchers in this area as enemies instead of heroes fighting for a common good.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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