Trump Ends 30-year Relationship With UC San Francisco Over Fetal-Tissue Research
Social Conservatives Cheer Move To End Controversial Grants; Liberals Fear Slower Cancer Research
By Timothy Nerozzi
June 10, 2019
Making good on a campaign promise, the Trump Administration is ending federal grants to medical researchers that use fetal tissues.
The White House recently directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to end funding for medical research at the University of California, San Francisco and other labs that use fetal-tissue samples in their work.
Pro-Life activists say that the use of fetal body parts in medical research is immoral and unnecessary, saying that adult corpses can replace fetal parts in federally funded research. The fetal-tissue ban will slow studies into HIV, cancer and other diseases, University of California scientists say, adding that adult cadavers are not always an effective substitute.
The federal National Institutes of Health is now encouraging the research and development of computer models that mimic fetal tissues as a replacement. The “research using these [fetal] tissues has been important in shedding light on scientific questions fundamental to biomedical research,” but the National Institutes of Health statement added that “new technologies raise the potential of reconstituting these model systems without fetal tissue yielding more replicable and reproducible system for broader uses.”
The announcement came without warning to UC San Francisco, which has received federal funding for more than 30 years. It currently uses fetal parts in experiments related to HIV and cancer.
“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” said a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman.
The HHS has decided “to let the contract with UCSF expire and to discontinue intramural research – research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortion.”
UC San Francisco may continue their current research practices with full legality — but without federal funds.
“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 department said in an official statement.
The HHS’ decision is directly linked to the National Institute of Health, which has begun to similarly curtail the use of fetal tissue from aborted fetuses.
“Human fetal tissue and embryonic stem cell-derived systems” have been singled out as undesirable methods of medical research by the NIH.
The Trump Administration’s move comes amid dueling bills in state legislatures, some liberalizing abortion laws while others making new attempts to restrict or ban the controversial practice.
Meanwhile, the Hyde Amendment, a federal policy that bars the federal government from directly funding most abortions, has been a central point of debate amongst Democratic Party candidates.
Former Vice President Joseph Biden, considered the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in recent polls, made headlines last week after reaffirming his support in the Hyde amendment. In the face of criticism, he reversed his long-held stand and criticized the Hyde Amendment. Rivals accused him of “flip-flopping.”
Since the fetal-tissue funding ban is a matter of presidential policy, not law, it could be swiftly overturned by another president.