Scientists Ask For Exemption For Trump’s Fetal Tissue Ban To Fight Coronavirus


Scientists at a major government biomedical research laboratory are asking for the Trump administration’s ban on aborted fetal tissue for medical research to be relaxed in order to conduct experiments on possible treatments for the novel coronavirus.

The fetal tissue is donated by women undergoing elective abortions. Critics argue that it is unethical to use the remains of aborted babies and that taxpayers should not be compelled to fund such research.

“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 announcing its revised policy late last spring, according to The Washington Post.

Kim Hasenkrug, an immunologist at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, however, has been pleading with top NIH officials for nearly a month, arguing that the scale of the pandemic justifies an exemption to the ban.

Several researchers familiar with the situation told WaPo that such experiments “could be particularly fruitful.”

A few months ago, before the novel coronavirus hit the globe, other U.S. scientists found that mice could be transplanted with aborted fetal tissue that develops into lungs, which the coronavirus aggressively attacks. These “humanized mice,” they also found, could then be infected with coronaviruses closely related to the one that causes COVID-19.

The creators of the “humanized” mice have offered to give them to the Rocky Mountain Lab, which has access to the novel coronavirus, so the mice could then be subjected to experiments for potential treatments, such as immune-boosting drugs or blood serum treatments from recovered COVID-19 patients.

“Kim Hasenkrug is one of the world experts in immune responses to persistent viral infection, including HIV and a whole bunch of other viruses,” Irving Weissman, a leading stem cell researcher at Stanford University, told WaPo.

“It isn’t clear if this added layer of urgent investigations will find more effective” treatments for people infected in the pandemic than other approaches being tried,” Weissman added, “but it’s stupid not to try.”

“When I hear the vice president saying [they’re] doing everything they can to find vaccines [and treatments], I know that is not true,” one anonymous scientist told WaPo, referring to Vice President Pence’s daily coronavirus task force news briefings. “Anything we do at this point could save hundreds of thousands of lives. If you wait, it’s too late.”

Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees NIH, said, “no decision has been made” about Rocky Mountain’s request. Oakley added that the administration’s “bold, decisive actions” to respond to the pandemic include “kick-starting the development of vaccines and therapeutics through every possible avenue.”

As we’ve reported in the past, several medicines and treatments considered “life-saving” are developed with the use of aborted fetal remains. Can we really justify placing the value of one life over another in this way? Are fetal remains the only material good for this purpose, or is it merely their availability and profitability that makes them the material of choice for researchers?

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