The Trump administration’s ban on aborted human fetal tissue in federally funded research has come under renewed fire as Democrats and pro-choice advocates accuse the White House of hampering the search for coronavirus cures.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, called on the administration to lift the “illogical and harmful” restrictions, citing a report about a National Institutes of Health immunologist who has sought an exemption for his COVID-19 research.
Mr. Nadler said the Department of Health and Human Services “must authorize this research immediately and while the ban on fetal tissue research should be lifted permanently, at the very least it must be lifted during this pandemic.
“That the Trump Administration prioritizes their illogical and harmful anti-science agenda over stopping this pandemic shows once again that they would rather score political points with their anti-abortion friends than save millions of lives,” Mr. Nadler said in a Friday statement.
Meanwhile, pro-life advocates blasted such efforts as an attempt to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to promote the pro-choice agenda.
“There are lots of ethical alternatives, and frankly, they’re better and more modern science compared to the old thing of doing aborted fetal tissue,” said David Prentice, the vice president and research director of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute who holds a doctorate in cellular biology. “It just strikes me as, they’re pleading for the funds. They don’t want to let a good crisis go to waste.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton tweeted: “The ‘researcher’ behind the purchase of organs of aborted beings pushes #coronavirus as an excuse for taxpayer funding.”
He referred to Kim Hasenkrug, an immunologist at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, who has sought an exemption to conduct experiments for COVID-19 treatments on “humanized mice” implanted with human fetal lung tissue from elective abortions, according to a March 18 report in The Washington Post.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat, reacted by accusing the White House of “once again prioritizing ideology over science.” NARAL Pro-Choice America said the administration “cares more about promoting anti-choice policies than enabling scientists to conduct crucial research during a time of crisis.”
The Montana lab referred inquiries to Health and Human Services spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley, who said Tuesday that “no decision has been made” on the request for an exemption from the June 5 policy.
The department also cited Mr. Trump’s aggressive response to the coronavirus outbreak, including “kick-starting the development of vaccines and therapeutics through every possible avenue.”
“The Trump Administration has activated a whole-of-government, whole-of-America approach to prepare for and respond to COVID-19,” said the HHS statement. “President Trump’s bold, decisive actions at the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak bought the United States extremely valuable time to prepare.”
The Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, disputed the contention that “aborted baby parts” are needed to develop a vaccine. It said more than 60 potential treatments are under investigation, “none of which need aborted fetal tissue to fight coronavirus.”
“Those who advocate experimentation using body parts harvested from aborted children are shamelessly exploiting the coronavirus pandemic, playing on people’s fears at a vulnerable time so that a select few can continue to use aborted fetal tissue in their research,” said the institute. “The fact is that there are modern, successful alternatives available.”
Judicial Watch released internal documents last month that showed the NIH paid $18,100 to Advanced Bioscience Resources from December 2016 to August 2018 for livers and thymuses from second-trimester abortions, including 26 purchases from Mr. Hasenkrug, for HIV research.
Mr. Hasenkrug serves as an affiliate associate professor at Montana State University and the University of Montana. In 2016, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, according to his biography.
Pro-choice advocates were outraged last year when the HHS discontinued research at intramural facilities — those within the NIH system — that required “new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions.”
“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” the HHS said in its June 5 statement.