HHS ethics advisory board announces decisions on fetal tissue research proposals

lawsuit, fetal pain, 18 weeks

An independent Ethics Advisory Board for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its approval and denial decisions yesterday on 14 research proposals involving the use of fetal tissue from aborted children. The advisory board was announced last June after it came to light that the Department of Health and Human Services had taxpayer-funded contracts with Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR) and the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF). As previously reported by Live Action News:

… [T]he decision followed a September 2018 move by HHS to “terminate[] a contract between Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR) and the Food and Drug Administration [more here] that provided human fetal tissue from elective abortions to develop testing protocols.” Live Action News previously documented that between 2010 and 2015, ABR payments to various Planned Parenthood facilities for the body parts of aborted children totaled more than $350,000….

In addition to ABR, HHS will no longer extend a contract to UCSF for research using fetal body parts.

Contracts with ABR and UCSF were cancelled, and HHS moved to ethically review other projects seeking funding.

The ethics advisory board announced that after reviewing all 14 proposals, it recommended funding approval for only one. The approved proposal would use only existing fetal tissue already being stored in a biorepository, requiring no additional aborted children to be used for the research. That existing tissue would be used in studies to develop suitable alternatives to the use of fetal tissue, and if successful, will purportedly “obliviate” the need for fetal tissue to be used in future research.

READ: Banning fetal tissue research isn’t bad for science. It’s an opportunity.

The board’s recommendations will be presented to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Congress for final approval.


The rejected proposals were denied for varied reasons, such as being “too interwoven with the practice of abortion,” a lack of justification as to why fetal tissue was required, a lack of consideration for alternatives to fetal tissue, and more. The final decisions, however, will ultimately come from Secretary Azar.

These actions follow a long-running promise from the Trump administration to find alternatives to the use of fetal tissue in medical and scientific research. “We are a pro-life, pro-science administration,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement in 2018. “This means that we understand and appreciate that medical research and the testing of new medical treatments using fetal tissue raises inherent moral and ethical issues.”

Instead of exploiting the bodies of dismembered children, the Trump administration has directed the National Institute of Health (NIH) to fund research finding alternatives to fetal tissue.

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