The Trump administration announced on Wednesday it will end future research conducted with fetal tissue from aborted babies.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced it would not renew a multi-million dollar partnership with the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) that funded the use of body parts obtained from aborted babies for medical research into diseases such as HIV and Zika. The agency will no longer allow government scientists to conduct research with fetal tissue.
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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," the statement said. "Intramural research that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted."
UCSF was the top recipient of funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2018. Its taxpayer-funded research included a $13 million contract to supply 90 mice injected with aborted baby cells each month.
The extension of the contract expired on Wednesday, but the university called the decision to end it "abrupt" in a statment, adding that it "deeply opposed" the decision to prevent federal researchers from using tissue obtained from abortion. It emphasized it complied with all federal and state laws and exercised appropriate oversight in the collection of the parts.
"The efforts by the administration to impede this work will undermine scientific discovery and the ability to find effective treatments for serious and life-threatening disease," UCSF said.
The announcement will not affect current contracts that involve the use of body parts obtained from abortion. An ethics panel will review outstanding bids from grant applicants in light of the new policy. NIH had already set aside $20 million for alternative research beginning in December 2018.
Pro-life groups expressed their support of the decision on Wednesday.
"This is a major pro-life victory and we thank President Trump for taking decisive action," said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. "It is outrageous and disgusting that we have been complicit, through our taxpayer dollars, in the experimentation using baby body parts."
Dr. David Prentice, vice president and research director at Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life research group, said the expiration of UCSF's contract will not hinder medical advances. He pointed to adult stem cells and other research techniques that have already yielded effective treatments for patients. While humanized mice research and other techniques using fetal tissue have been lucrative for some establishments, eliminating taxpayer funding for organ harvesting in the abortion industry can easily be replaced.
"Today's move demonstrates NIH's investment in scientifically-proven methods for research: adult stem cells, iPS cells, organoids, humanized mice constructed using postnatally sourced cells and improved non-human cell lines—just to name a few," he said. "All of these have been used in the production of treatments, vaccines and medicines currently on the market; the key is that our government will now invest in effective research methods that do not rely on the destruction of human life."
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, joined the pro-life support for the decision, arguing the practice of fetal tissue research is immoral.
"March for Life applauds the administration for halting funding for research that requires aborted fetal organs and tissue," she said. "Most Americans do not want their tax dollars creating a marketplace for aborted baby body parts which are then implanted into mice and used for experimentation. This type of research involves the gross violation of basic human rights and certainly the government has no business funding it."
The agency made the announcement nine months after it began a review of taxpayer funding of fetal tissue research. The Trump administration terminated a similar contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc.—a prominent figure in a 2015 undercover expose about the aborted baby organ harvesting trade—in September 2018.