The National Institutes of Health will no longer use fetal tissue in its research, ABC News reports, though new policy from the Trump administration will allow government-funded research by universities to continue, subject to any oversight deemed necessary.
Human fetal tissue — taken from elective abortions, which “would otherwise be discarded” — is used in treatments that involve the body’s immune system, as well as researching HIV and childhood cancers.
Despite NIH Director Francis Collins’s argument that “there’s strong evidence that scientific benefits come from fetal tissue research”, an anonymous senior administration official announced that President Trump made the decision. The government has historically funded medical research using fetal tissue under administrations of both political parties. However, “medical investigators said they feared the government would halt important research to satisfy anti-abortion activists”.
Groups such as Students for Life of American and The Susan B. Anthony List claim that there are alternative research materials available, but scientific groups argue that “that’s not the case for every disease and condition”.
During the 2017 budget year, research that used fetal tissue accounted for a small portion of the NIH’s research budget, accumulating to $98 million. The Human Health Services Department will use a $20 million grant program to “develop, demonstrate, and validate experimental models that do not rely on human fetal tissue from elective abortions”.