The Trump administration on Wednesday announced major cuts to funding for research using fetal material procured from abortions and said government scientists at the National Institutes of Health will now be prohibited from performing such research, which cost the government $13 million last year.
The Department of Health and Human Services said it will cancel a $2 million annual contract for fetal-tissue research with the University of California, San Francisco that began in 2013. About 200 other such contracts for fetal-tissue research involving more than $100 million in NIH grants to universities will continue for now, but they will be evaluated by a new ethics committee when they are up for renewal, the department said.
“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, adding that “research [at NIH] that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted.”
The announcement prompted an outcry from supporters of the research, who said slashing funding would “devastate” important scientific projects.
“It will affect everything from cures for cancer and H.I.V. through to Parkinson’s and dementia,” said Georgetown University professor Lawrence Gostin, who focuses on public-health law. “The ban on fetal-tissue research is akin to a ban on hope for millions of Americans suffering from life-threatening and debilitating diseases. It will also severely impact the National Institutes of Health, universities, and other researchers, who will lose key funding for their laboratories and their vital work.”
Meanwhile, pro-life groups celebrated the move as a win for the American public as well as the unborn.
“This is a major pro-life victory,” said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
“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,” March for Life president Jeanne Mancini remarked. “This type of research involves the gross violation of basic human rights and certainly the government has no business funding it.”
The department said in November it is looking at potential ways to phase out all funding for fetal-tissue research in favor of alternatives that do not use such tissue. In September, a group of 45 state and national pro-life leaders signed a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar petitioning for an end to the research as well.