New guidelines distributed for research on aborted baby body parts

31  July 2019


New guidelines require researchers to justify why using human remains is vital to their research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have set in place new guidelines for scientists seeking federal funding for research on the remains of aborted babies.

The guidelines issued require researchers to provide a justification as to why human remains are vital to the research being conducted, and require an explanation to be given as to why alternatives could not be used in place of the human remains. Information must also be provided, proving that the researchers have received consent from the mother of the aborted baby to experiment on the bodily remains, combined with an explanation as to how researchers plan to dispose of the remains once the research is complete.

Cracking down on tissue testing

The new guidelines have appeared only a month after the US Government announced it was cancelling a contract with a company that provided foetal remains from elective abortions for research purposes.

On the 5th of June, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement, explaining that it had initiated a review of all HHS research which involved the use of foetal tissue from elective abortions, following the cancellation of a contract with one provider.

The statement said: “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration…Intramural research that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted.”

is the use of baby body parts medically necessary?

Some researchers have spoken out in criticism of the new guidelines, calling them ‘yet another set of barriers.’

Earlier this month, 93 medical associations penned a letter to the Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, expressing their opposition to the new requirements. The letter said: “These policies would impose substantial barriers to and limit the use of an essential biomedical research resource that has led to many advances in human health and remains critical for the development of new treatments. Human fetal tissue research advances science, improves human health, and saves lives. “

However, despite decades of research on embryonic or foetal material being touted as medically essential, no therapies have been discovered or developed that require aborted foetal tissue. Dr Tara Sander Lee of the Charlotte Lozier Institute told Congress last December that in the case of vaccines, “cells derived from aborted fetal tissue have been used in the development process, but fetal tissues have NEVER been the exclusive means necessary for these breakthroughs.” Ethical alternatives using monkey cells, chicken eggs, and non-fetal human cells are available for all bar three of the 75 vaccines currently used in the US, and there is no scientific reason that those three have required use of foetal cells.

Dr Sander Lee said: “Fetal tissue is not critical to the development of new vaccines to fight Zika [virus] and Ebola. Greater than 98% of research articles published on Zika do not use fetal tissue. Rather, adult blood cells recently led to a breakthrough in vaccine development .”

human life should be treated with dignity and respect

Michael Robinson, SPUC Director of Communications said: "It is vital that from the moment of conception, all human life is treated with dignity and respect and not destroyed and dishonoured for the supposed benefit of others. The pursuit of science is a crucial endeavour. However, it must be handled in an ethical manner which aligns with a respect for human life.”

Mr Robinson continued: “Testing on the tissue of aborted humans does not align with the principles of dignity and respect. Instead, it treats humans in a subhuman way as part of a grisly science experiment to be prodded and poked at. Despite these new guidelines being set in place, it is still entirely unacceptable that any human should have their remains treated in such a disrespectful, abhorrent manner.”