House members debate use of fetal tissue in government research
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House members debate fetal tissue in government research: ‘We can stop’

At the center of a heated debate of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is the use of fetal tissue in research funded by the National Institutes of Health. For those who stand against abortion, this research is unethical, yet the NIH spends about $100 million annually on this research. In September, the Trump administration instructed NIH to cease acquiring new fetal tissue for research but didn’t halt ongoing research with already obtained fetal tissue. The question at hand is whether taxpayer funding should be used for research that requires the bodies of aborted children in order to potentially create treatments for certain medical conditions.

At the hearing on December 13, 2018, Tara Sander Lee, PhD, an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute (funded by pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List), said fetal tissue is not necessary for research, thanks to “abundant and more successful” alternatives.

READ: New medical breakthrough could make demand for fetal tissue research obsolete

“… [W]e never needed aborted fetal tissue to begin with,” remarked Lee, who built her own lab to study congenital heart disease and vascular disorders in children. “In the case of vaccines, cells derived from aborted fetuses were used in the developmental process, but fetal tissues have never been the exclusive means necessary for these breakthroughs. […] If we stopped harvesting fresh tissues from aborted fetuses today, it will not stop one person from being treated or vaccinated today nor will it inhibit the development of new vaccines going forward.”

“After 100 years of research, no therapies have been discovered or developed that require aborted fetal tissue,” she added.

David Prentice, PhD, VP and research director at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said, “Taxpayer funding should go to successful patient-focused alternatives,” including adult stem cells.

NIH has announced plans to spend $20 million to develop alternatives to human fetal tissue research.

Congressman Jody Hice (R-Ga) agreed, saying, “There’s a lot of talk these days about a wall being built. I think emphatically there should be a wall built between taxpayer dollars and the use of those dollars going toward aborted baby parts and the research thereof.”

READ: Trump administration to fund ethical, pro-life alternatives to fetal tissue research

Sally Temple, PhD, former president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, argued that fetal tissue is “an essential resource for study and developing [treatments]” and that alternatives “cannot fully replace fetal tissue,” because “tissues from miscarriages often have abnormalities” and “adult stem cells can’t be used for every disorder.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said that those representatives who are against fetal tissue research “undermine the integrity of the existing framework around fetal tissue procurement” and “are motivated by extreme ideology.”

“That’s all it is,” Chu said. “Perhaps even worse, they do great harm, extreme harm to science.”

However, research from MSK developmental biologist Lorenz Studer shows that “pluripotent stem cells, which may be derived from embryos or from adult cells, have the potential to grow into any type of cell in the body.”

Despite claims from proponents of using fetal tissue to treat Parkinson’s disease, current studies using adult stem cells have shown great promise. The first attempt to use fetal brain cells to counteract the effects of Parkinson’s disease took place in 1987, with 200 patients worldwide undergoing treatment, but many experienced no benefits and the trials were ended.

Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) noted at the hearing that taxpayers are forced to support Planned Parenthood, and are therefore forced to fund unethical research using aborted children.

READ: Planned Parenthood got over $300,000 in 6 years from one fetal tissue harvester

“Taxpayers are paying on the frontend for something that many of the folks that I get the privilege of representing just think is absolutely wrong – giving money to Planned Parenthood which is taking the lives of unborn kids. And then they’re paying on the backend for the very tissue that was used in a practice they don’t approve of, to get results that can be achieved with alternatives,” Jordan said, arguing that since no therapies have been acquired that actually require the use of fetal tissue. “We can stop. We got this.”

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