WASHINGTON, D.C. — A collection of pro-life groups Oct. 22 called for an end to the use of aborted fetal tissue in animal research.
Although the Trump administration banned the practice in June for federal research at the National Institutes of Health, the group White Coat Waste Project said research continues in 31 different states with research dates not expiring until 2023 or even later, with some projects having open-ended deadlines.
Anthony Bellotti, president and founder of the White Coat Waste Project, said the trade in aborted fetal tissue supports a $100-million-a-year industry. “If you’re an animal lover, you’re opposed to this. If you’re pro-life or pro-choice, you’re opposed to this. If you’re Republican or Democrat, you’re opposed to this,” he added.
Bellotti made his remarks at what was billed as a “congressional briefing,” titled “Putting Life Back Into Life Science,” and held in a room at the Capitol Visitors Center.
“You can see some very troubling actors” in fetal tissue research, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, said at the briefing, which attracted congressional staffers but no other members of Congress. He lined up nearly 70 members of Congress, all Republicans, to sign an Oct. 16 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to stop funding all such studies.
“We are disappointed that 200 projects using fetal tissue research currently continue,” the letter said. “In addition to the appalling exploitation of aborted babies, many have expressed concern that experiments also fail to treat animal subjects humanely.”
Terrisa Bukovinac, founder and executive director of Pro-Life San Francisco, directed her ire at the University of California-San Francisco, whose Ryan Residency Training Program in Abortion and Family Planning has seen “pretty much every major abortion physician” go through it.
Bukovinac charged that the drug-induced abortions UCSF uses in its training results in “born alive” babies because “it takes six to eight minutes for the heart to stop beating.” Meanwhile, the residency program offers “pristine” fetuses at 18 to 24 weeks’ gestation for animal research purposes. Part of the Trump administration’s June 5 order canceled a $2 million contract with UCSF.
Photos displayed during the briefing showed organs harvested from the fetuses attached to the organs of mice.
Statistics show a majority of Americans now disapprove of the use of animals in research. The percentage has grown from 43 percent of a decade ago to 52 percent this year.
Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, said in response to a reporter’s question it is ethically impossible to seek informed consent from a woman undergoing an abortion to release the fetus for research.
“In the abortion context, informed consent is different than for any other medical procedure,” Foster said, either before or after the abortion.
Foster said that when she had an abortion, there was no such discussion from the physician who performed it. “There was a form to sign” with no explanation of its contents from someone who was “not a member of the health care team. It was a staff person who had no training.”
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said her party needs to “take the abortion blinders off and see what is really at stake here. … It’s about the dignity.”
Day added, “I can understand the curiosity of science, and finding cures to terrible diseases that are plaguing our nation.”
But given the United States’ own history with the 40-year Tuskegee syphilis study, she said, “it’s too easy to overstep.”
Day was referring to the study undertaken to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis: Black men in the study were told they were getting free health care from the U.S. government but were never administered treatments to cure their disease.
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