First and Foremost: This post is not an open invitation to debate the legality or ethics of abortion rights in America. The right for a woman to obtain an abortion has been part of United States (U.S.) law since January, 22nd, 1973 when Roe v. Wade was ruled on by the Supreme Court. As of this writing it stands as the law of the land. When a pregnancy is terminated, the fetal tissue may be voluntarily donated for scientific research or not. Doctors and clinics may not profit from the sale of fetal tissue.
Fetal Cell Tissue is the Best Option for Research: Going back to the 1930’s, researchers were aware of certain benefits of using fetal cell tissue in their research on vaccines and other treatments. The most basic of which is that it is just that – a living human cell, not an animal cell or a theory. One of the major benefits of fetal cells is that they are undifferentiated (they haven’t developed into specialized cells yet, like blood cells or muscle cells). They are a blank slate and can be used in many ways. Some individuals believe that animal cells can be used in the place of fetal tissue, but “if we want to study a process, it’s best to use the real thing”, says Akhilesh Pandey from Johns Hopkins. Being undifferentiated, fetal cell tissue is easy to grow into long existing cell lines that easily adapt to their use.
Fetal Cell Tissue Research Breakthroughs: The list of vaccines that have been created and other research that has been done using fetal cell tissue is immense. A partial listing of vaccines created using these tissue lines includes polio, rubella, mumps, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis A, and rabies. Recent breakthrough research using fetal cell tissue includes advances in the treatment of macular degeneration, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and Zika virus.
Research using fetal cell tissue is irreplaceable and invaluable.
Trump Administration Greatly Curtails Fetal Tissue Medical Research: Just yesterday (Wednesday, June 5th), the Trump administration, via an announcement from the department of Health and Human Services (DHS), stated they were sharply cutting federal spending on medical research using fetal tissue because, “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration”. Much of this research occurs in conjunction with the National Institute of Health (N.I.H) and the announcement is an end to relationship that resulted in many medical breakthroughs since the 1950’s. The public outcry has been immediate and loud, from the medical research community to human rights groups. Sam Hogwood, the chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco said, “today’s action ends a 30-year partnership with the N.I.H. to use specially designed models that could be developed only through the use of fetal tissue to find a cure for H.I.V…We believe this decision to be politically motivated, shortsighted and not based on sound science.”
To Wrap Things Up: In their announcement, the administration stated that the main reason behind their decision was “promoting the dignity of human life”. Or, looking at the administration’s past behaviors, they really aren’t basing anything on true scientific reasoning or for the benefit of U.S. citizen’s lives, they are bowing to pressure from far-right anti-abortion groups and conservative members of congress – all in their true shallow spirit of pandering to their base for reelection support. If the administration is interested in the dignity of human life and how it is viewed by the most conservative entity in the world, they need only look to the Catholic Church, which in 2017 came out in support of vaccines created using fetal cell tissues saying that the potential public health risks of not using these treatments far outweighs the concern about the vaccine’s origins.
This research is vital to the continued development of breakthroughs in medical research for the betterment of all our lives. This decision by the U.S. government shows how little they regard what is in the best interest of the U.S. population, in favor of pleasing the extreme right for self-serving reelection purposes.
I’ve said it before and I will continue to repeat myself – CONTACT YOUR GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES AND LET THEM KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS. One of the easiest ways to do so is to text the word “resist” to 50409. Resistbot will reply and ask you a few basic questions to get started. It’s very simple – won’t you join me?
Links, Resource, and Further Reading: