Should aborted fetal tissue be used for scientific research?


Fact Box

  • In NIH's Grants Policy Statement, 'human fetal tissue' is defined as 'tissue or cells obtained from a dead human embryo or fetus after a spontaneous or induced abortion or stillbirth. This definition does not include established human fetal cell lines.'
  • The American Medical Association instructs physicians who use human fetal tissue in research to follow a strict ethical code, including 'abstaining from offering money in exchange for fetal tissue,' ensuring each woman makes her decision before 'discussion of using the fetal tissue for research purposes.'
  • According to Pew Research, The Guttmacher Institute reported that 'in 2020 there were 14.4 abortions in the US per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.'
  • The University of Pittsburgh states, 'America's top biomedical research institutions utilize fetal tissue for certain types of research. In 2020, the top-10 NIH-funded institutions received NIH grants for projects that utilize fetal tissue research.'
  • A July 2022 Harvard Harris poll found that 72% of Americans favor restrictions on abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy (23% up to 15 weeks, 12% up to six weeks, 37% only in cases of rape/incest). Of that demographic, 60% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans, and 75% of women agreed on restricting abortion beyond 15 weeks.

Stephanie (Yes)

While research based on rats, mice, and sheep can provide progress in numerous fields of scientific research, human tissue is necessary to finalize many experiments to ensure things like vaccines, drugs, and treatments are safe for human consumption. The easiest way to obtain human stem cells is through fetal tissue of either living or aborted fetuses. While this practice can be controversial, the pursuit of scientific research relies on it. 

Vaccine creation relies on the fact that the viruses being targeted for elimination are 'cultured' in human tissue cells. However, most modern vaccines used the same propagated cells from two abortions performed in the 1960s. For that long, dozens of vaccines and millions of lives have been saved from only a few cells obtained and used for medical purposes. 

Human cell research has produced promising treatments for life-altering conditions such as cystic fibrosis and other lung diseases. Denying scientists the ability to continue this research would be unfair in denying the advancement of science. Thus, painful long-term diseases can be cured by using discarded medical waste.

All fetal tissue being used in scientific research is donated with consent from the donors. If a person can donate their body to science after passing, the choice of donating aborted fetal tissue that would otherwise be discarded as medical waste should not be seen as any different.

Aborted fetal tissue has undeniable benefits when used in scientific research. Scientific advancements are essential for eliminating diseases and keeping society healthy and safe. 

Luke (No)

Without a person's consent, their body cannot be used for scientific research posthumously. The aborted are human with unique DNA signatures (including identical twins) and are unable to give consent to their destruction for scientific purposes. Therefore, their remains should not be used for research. Beyond this, allowing research to utilize aborted fetal tissue opens the door to incentivizing abortion for those purposes, reducing the dignity of humankind to mere lab rats. If the most vulnerable class of humans (those growing in utero) have no dignity, then it stands to reason that anything is permissible in the name of scientific or social progress. 

Arguments claiming this research serves the 'greater good' are made without consideration of the individual and their rights and are fundamentally flawed. Society comprises individuals; if any individual is at risk of becoming a sacrificial lamb on the altar of ‘progress,’ the entire society is under threat. Instead of sharing in the alleged utility of the greater good, the masses instead share in the potential of great personal harm when one's rights (like the first and fundamental right to life) are eroded. 

While one may argue that the ends justify the means, it is rational to counter that if the means are crude enough, the ends are likewise tainted. As such, any medical advance that rests upon those who were tortured, murdered, or aborted is inherently tainted and opens the door to funding Nazi-styled research. Ultimately, if we cannot arrive at an 'advancement' without undertaking egregious acts to get there, then it’s questionable if such advancement is necessary. It’s reasonable to ask where the limiting principle exists within such an ideology that values results apart from preserving and protecting human life—it’s a matter of literal life and death.

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