In a move celebrated by anti-choicers, the Trump-Pence administration on Wednesday announced it is barring government researchers from using fetal tissue.
But given that the tissue comes from abortions, the anti-choice movement has utilized the issue to further its attack on reproductive rights.
In its new statement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it will not renew its contract with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) regarding research involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions. Research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortion is stopped, the statement said, and NIH grant-funded research projects conducted outside NIH will be subjected to a new ethics advisory board.
In addition, "HHS is continuing to review whether adequate alternatives exist to the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions in HHS-funded research and will ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated," the statement adds.
Though the administration has put migrant children in cages and moved to threaten poor people's access to food, the HHS statement said that "[p]romoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump's administration."
Crirtics blasted the move on social media, calling it a further attack on science that puts life-saving research in danger.
You can donate your body to science.— Madeline Marsanne (@MadelineOnMars) June 5, 2019
Now, you can’t donate fetal tissue after abortion or miscarriage.
It won’t stop a single abortion.
We’re hampering drug development, treatment for neurological conditions, blood disorders, diabetes, etc to satisfy the bloodlust of fanatics. pic.twitter.com/Anuoc00klx
The Trump Admin strikes again.— Jan Schakowsky (@janschakowsky) June 5, 2019
Now, their antiscience & anti-choice agenda will stop critical biomedical research on vaccines & treatments for HIV, cancer, Parkinson’s & other illnesses.
Their #WaronWomen impacts all of us. #MenforChoice #StoptheBanshttps://t.co/jDNsj0VhMV
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The war on science continues. This will make it harder to find cures for deadly diseases - including HIV/AIDS.— Tim Fullerton (@TimFullerton) June 5, 2019
So much for the party of "life." https://t.co/Dn4XJ3FbN1
This is hateful to anyone with a chronic illness who could potentially benefit from fetal tissue research, including me. https://t.co/Kf5kcT77vf— Maris Kreizman (@mariskreizman) June 5, 2019
ALERT: The Administration says that it is ending medical research by government scientists using human fetal tissue, overriding the advice of scientists.— March for Science (@MarchForScience) June 5, 2019
Fetal tissue is used in research on many lifesaving treatments including, HIV, cancer, & vaccines.https://t.co/uW7UyOQlJj
When HHS announced in September that it was beginning a review of human fetal tissue research, experts expressed concern about the possible motivations and likely effects.
Among those sounding alarm was Warner Greene, MD, PhD, a senior investigator and director of the Center for HIV Cure Research at the Gladstone Institutes.
"If the ban on the use of fetal tissue is extended to all NIH grantees, it could really thwart the progress of science," said Greene. "More specifically, blocking the use of fetal tissue could seriously hinder our hopes of finding a cure for HIV."
Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, summed up what she felt was behind the administration's move.
"My instinct is that this is driven by politics," she previously told Science magazine, "and is part of the overall effort to stigmatize and eventually criminalize abortion, as well as part of a larger campaign to roll back the clock on sexual and reproductive rights."