(Photo : National Institutes of Health) Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks at the NIH campus on March 20, 2018.
Numerous influential pro-life groups have come out in strong support of a decision by a federal ethics board to reject 13 out of 14 applications for fetal tissue research funding, including both grants and contracts.
Groups such as the National Right to Life, U.S bishops pro-life committee, and Susan B. Anthony List have lauded the Trump administration for the overwhelming decision of the ethics board. Mallory Quigby of the Susan B. Anthony List described the board’s decision-making process as “a serious review of the ethical considerations surrounding use of human fetal tissue in research.”
The board was created by the Trump administration in 2019 to review applications for funding of fetal tissue research conducted outside of NIH facilities. In addition, the ChristianPost reported last year that HHS imposed a moratorium on all new fetal tissue research at NIH facilities. This is in addition to a $20 million research program from 2018 focused on alternative experimental models to human fetal tissue.
The advisory board considered ethical questions as required by the law constituting the board.
According to Science, “At least 10 of the board’s 15 members have publicly opposed abortion, fetal tissue research, human embryonic stem cell research, contraception, or a combination of.” Lawrence Goldstein, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, has been the only board member to come out strongly in favor of fetal tissue research. He told ScienceInsider that “excellent disease-relevant research will likely not be funded and it will not be possible to reduce the need for human fetal tissue in disease research.” Currently, human fetal tissue from abortions is used for research on diseases like HIV and Alzheimer’s and as testing cells for multiple candidate coronavirus vaccines.
The one acceptance out of 14 proposals, by a 9-to-6 vote, was a proposal to develop an alternative to fetal tissue which used existing fetal tissue stored in a biorepository as a comparator. Current NIH guidelines for research require a fetal tissue comparator, described as the gold standard, for any research on human fetal tissue replacements and alternatives.
Alex Azar, the HHS secretary, will make the final decision about whether to fund each proposal.