Blocking fetal research is greater moral failure

This editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

The Trump administration made good on its threats to clamp down on the use of tissue derived from aborted fetuses in federally funded medical research, cancelling a $2-million-a year contract with the University of California San Francisco for HIV research. The government said it will reject future projects that seek federal funding through the National Institutes for Health.

This is nothing more than an anti-scientific sop to the religious right, which sees fetal tissue research as another front in the war on abortion. But a ban will hurt more babies than it will save. In fact, it won’t save any babies at all, because abortion is a constitutionally protected right that will continue regardless of these rules.

What such a policy will do is chill important research that could help babies — and children and adults — avoid suffering and death. Fetal tissue research has helped scientists understand debilitating and deadly maladies such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and and Parkinson’s disease so treatments can be developed. Cells cultured from aborted fetuses were used to develop vaccines for rubella, rabies and other diseases. Today, researchers are using fetal tissue find a vaccine for the Zika virus, which has devastating effects on babies born to women who contract it while pregnant.

Those opposed to fetal tissue research for moral reasons argue that the potential life packed into every fetus, no matter how undeveloped, is sacred and deserves the same protection as a newborn baby. They also say there are reasonable alternatives to fetal research, such as using cells from human bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. But that view is not shared by all researchers, and it seems a greater moral transgression to deny science the best tools available to find cures for sick people.


The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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