HHS cancels UCSF contract for research involving human 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”

By Dave Andrusko

The Washington Post (predictably) headlined the move, “Trump administration imposes new restrictions on fetal tissue research.”

A more measured and accurate statement is that upon review, the Administration is taking additional steps to ensure that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will not be funding its own research that uses tissue from elective abortions and will continue to pursue development of ethical alternatives.

In a six-paragraph explanation, HHS noted that last September

the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) terminated a contract between Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration that provided human fetal tissue from elective abortions to develop testing protocols. The Department was not sufficiently assured that contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements. As a result, HHS also initiated a comprehensive review of all HHS research involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions 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 regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.

When the audit and review began, HHS had an existing contract with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) regarding research involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions. HHS has been extending the UCSF contract by means of 90-day extensions while conducting its audit and review. The current extension expires on June 5, 2019, and there will be no further extensions.

With that as backdrop, HHS went on to add to put the decision in context:

Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration. The audit and review helped inform the policy process that led to the administration’s decision to let the contract with UCSF expire and to discontinue intramural research – research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortion. Intramural research that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted.

HHS has already begun a review of whether there are “adequate alternatives” in HHS-funded research and “will ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated.”

In December 2018, NIH announced a $20 million funding opportunity for research to develop, demonstrate, and validate experimental models that do not rely on human fetal tissue from elective abortions. HHS is committed to providing additional funding to support the development and validation of alternative models.

Congratulations to President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar.