The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed new restrictions on federal use of fetal tissue obtained from abortions, barring NIH from conducting that internal research and canceling an existing HIV research contract with the University of California, San Francisco.
HHS also said it will impose new ethics reviews on government-funded research at universities and other scientific centers seeking to use fetal tissue. It will also continue to explore if there are alternatives to using the tissue at all.
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“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” HHS said in a statement. “[NIH internal] research that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted.”
Researchers say they rely on fetal tissue to develop vaccines and develop cures for degenerative diseases. The UCSF contract, which involved seeking new HIV therapies, was due to expire today after the Trump administration granted a 90-day extension. The health department currently funds more than $100 million in contracts that use fetal tissue.
The new restrictions, which have been closely guarded and fiercely debated within the Trump administration, caught research organizations by surprise but were hailed by anti-abortion groups. “The Trump administration once again has done the right thing in restoring a culture of life to our government,” said Students for Life of America’s Kristan Hawkins in a statement.
The controversy over federal use of fetal tissue exploded in 2015 when an anti-abortion group released videos purportedly showing Planned Parenthood profiting from sale of the tissues. Planned Parenthood said the videos were edited to be intentionally misleading, and a Texas grand jury subsequently cleared the agency of any wrongdoing. But the furor continued. Prompted by anti-abortion groups, Trump’s health department conducted a six-month review of federal use of fetal tissue.