The Trump administration is investing up to $20 million for the next two years to determine effective alternatives to using tissue from aborted babies for research.
The announcement Monday from the Department of Health and Human Services comes after the administration in September terminated a government contract with California-based Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc. to provide human fetal tissue research.
“We are a pro-life, pro-science administration. This means that we understand and appreciate that medical research and the testing of new medical treatments using fetal tissue raises inherent moral and ethical issues,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a prepared statement.
After news that the Food and Drug Administration had renewed the contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources, 45 pro-life organizations wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, asserting that it was “completely unacceptable to discover that the FDA is using federal tax dollars and fomenting demand for human body parts taken from babies who are aborted.”
The HHS soon announced that it had terminated the contract. Monday’s announcement marks another step.
“This also means that we place a high value on the work NIH [the National Institutes of Health] does in creating new discoveries that result in cures and improved quality of life,” Oakley said. “Secretary Azar directed the review, which we are approaching with the utmost seriousness and concern.”
NIH on Monday released a notice of intent to publish new funding opportunity announcements inviting applications to develop and refine human tissue models that can be used to accurately model embryonic development or other aspects of human biology but do not rely on the use of fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions.
The NIH will fund research to develop alternative models to the use of human fetal tissue in biomedical research.
“After a recent review of a contract between Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration to provide human fetal tissue to develop testing protocols, HHS was not sufficiently assured that the contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements,” Oakley said.
“As a result, HHS is now conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations,” she said.
The new announcement is a positive step, said Melanie Israel, research associate with The Heritage Foundation.
“The federal government should promote good science and respect innocent human life—these two principles are not mutually exclusive, and HHS must proceed accordingly,” Israel told The Daily Signal.
The announcement also comes amid blistering attacks from the mainstream media that halting federal funding of fetal tissue research is preventing a study to “discover a cure for HIV.”
The NIH is also reviewing a contract with a laboratory at the University of California at San Francisco that conducted human fetal research.
“In September, HHS issued a statement announcing an audit would be conducted of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations,” Oakley said regarding the San Francisco contract.
“In addition, HHS has initiated a comprehensive review of all research involving fetal tissue to ensure consistency with statutes and regulations governing such research, and to ensure the adequacy of procedures and oversight of this research in light of the serious considerations involved,” Oakley said. “Regarding the extension on the UC San Francisco contract, no final decision has been made. A decision will be made when the contract has been reviewed, pursuant to the ongoing audit/review process. There is a provision for continuity of work while the contract is being reviewed.”
This story was updated to include an HHS comment on the review of the federal contract with the University of California San Francisco.