Should institutions use aborted fetal tissue for medical research?

The University of Minnesota has recently come under fire regarding the sourcing of its fetal tissue for medical research. Beginning in July, state legislators asked the research institution whether it used aborted fetal tissue for medical studies, and were told no. However, in a letter to two regents in October, University President Eric Kaler wrote, “The University does not know all of the various sources of fetal tissue procured by [Advanced Bioscience Resources] ABR. However, ABR has informed the University that it procures tissue from induced abortions at clinics throughout the country, including up until July 2015, clinics in Minnesota.” The University later reassessed its fetal tissue research policy, and in a letter to the board of regents, Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, called for the school to “ban the use and purchase of aborted fetal tissue.”

Abby Marino is vice-president of Students for Human Life, a pro-life University of Minnesota student organization. She writes:

Absolutely not. Using aborted fetal tissue for medical research perpetuates a system of abuse in which the institution actually does itself a disservice.

We are looking at two violations here: in choosing to not pursue moral and legal means of fetal tissue purchase, not only is state law violated, which prohibits the use of aborted fetal tissue for medical research, but this is a very loud violation of the institution’s accountability to the highest possible form of ethical standards and research conduct.

Institutions could actually do themselves a public favor by dissolving all ties between their research departments and the fears and concerns raised in relation to any procurement companies linked with abortion facilities. I strongly encourage institutions to obtain fetal tissue from unanimously ethical and justifiable sources, i.e., stillborn or miscarried infants.

Interestingly, institutions somehow recognize ethical complications in the field of animal research, yet simply feel entitled to use our taxpayer and tuition dollars for a practice much more ethically steeped: fetal tissue from induced abortions.

As a student here at the U of M, I want to see my University abide by state law and the highest possible moral code and ethical standard.

Jon Hanson is an officer for the University Pro-Choice Coalition, and is a biology major at the College of Biological Sciences. He writes:

There is absolutely no doubt about the great value of fetal tissue in biomedical research. In the past, investigations with the stem cells harbored in these tissues led to the development of the vaccines for polio and rubella and the subsequent eradication of those diseases. Currently, fetal tissue research aims to use these potent cells to cure neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, as well as to develop therapies and cures for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Of course, before this life-saving research can be conducted, the tissue must be procured from somewhere. In the case of induced abortion, a woman is given the option of donating her fetal tissue only after she has already made her choice to terminate the pregnancy and only after the operation has already been performed. Thus, the fact that the tissue donation could be used for research affects neither whether nor how the abortion is performed.

Furthermore, informed consent is a major aspect of this protocol; women know their donated tissue could be used to develop world-changing cures when they agree to donate. This is a generous decision that comes with deep thought and consideration. Why should their generosity not be allowed to benefit society?

Since there are already strict legal guidelines set to protect women during the procurement of this tissue, and the research has saved and can continue to save many more lives, donated aborted fetal tissue should undoubtedly be able to be used for biomedical research.

Today’s Question: Should institutions use aborted fetal tissue for medical research?

  • scott

    Yes.
    And those against fetal tissue research should vow never to benefit
    from medical advances from fetal tissue research such as vaccines for
    chickenpox, rubella, shingles, rabies, hepatitis, polio, and Ebola; treatments
    for Parkinson’s Disease, spinal cord injuries, several age related eye
    conditions, Down syndrome, SIDS, stroke, diabetes, and a host of other advances
    that are made because of fetal tissue research.

  • Rich in Duluth

    Yes, of course, aborted fetal tissues should be used for research. Research using these materials has been going on for nearly a century and has led to vaccines for chickenpox, rubella, and polio http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1510279 . We have all already benefited from this research and who knows what new medical advancements can be found using this material?

    In addition, most of us discussing this issue are not experts in the use of tissues for research. Researchers have, apparently, determined that these materials are the “gold standard” for medical research and should be allowed to use them. If some of us in the general public are against abortion and the use of these materials, then those people don’t have to have abortions and don’t have to use the benefits of this research. The rest of us should be able to follow our own consciences and do what we think is right.

    • Martha

      Yes,, but a good conclusion from weak premises is still poor.
      “The rest of us should be able to follow our own consciences and do what we think is right” On that reasoning, all women married to traditional muslims should expect to be beat if they offend their husband, or allow honor killings of their daughters for shaming the father as the Quran says is expected and approved. That is traditional Islam’s political and religious direction.
      BTW_If we can kill babies up to near term for research as Planned Parenthood was caught and admitted to doing, than why do liberals protest killing the horrific criminals ( no death penalty for serial rapists?) How freeking odd is that? An innocent helpless baby near birth gets death on demand for the greater good but serial rapists get a TV and a few years in jail…sounds like liberal Progressive dumbing down.

      • Rich in Duluth

        Your argument that following ones own conscience regarding abortion is the same as following ones own conscience with regard to religious dogma or tradition is nonsense, if it means breaking the law. We all agree that beating people and killing people is morally wrong and illegal. So, those who beat others or kill others, in this country, even if these actions were carried out in the name of some religion, would be prosecuted. OTOH, we don’t all agree that abortion is wrong and it is legal. In fact, a large minority of Americans (42%), around 100-million of us, think it should remain legal.

        • Sue de Nim

          Statistics I’ve seen in the past show a majority of Americans would describe themselves as leaning “pro-life” in their personal views and a majority leaning “pro-choice” on the public policy question. There’s a goodly number of us who see no contradiction in that.

          • Rich in Duluth

            Yes, there is no contradiction, there. I see that attitude reasonable for any controversial issue, where large minorities may hold differing views than the majority. We should conduct our own lives as we see fit, but allow freedom of choice for those who see things differently.

        • Martha

          Rich_ what part of aborting a baby’s life is NOT killing? Aborting a pregnancy requires the chemical and physical scalpa for killing the baby. If it was really about terminating a pregnancy as the sole focus, then I suppose killing the mother would also be a form of aborting a pregnancy. So misterming the act of killing doesn’t change the facts.
          As you said, ” We all agree that beating people and killing people is morally wrong and illegal.” Apparently not for the “pro- choice to kill” group when it is a baby’s life, for some.

    • PaulJ

      I don’t know if the benefits can be avoided. If one is against nuclear energy should all the work done by people living in homes powered by nuclear energy be off limits?

      • Rich in Duluth

        If you’re going to be practical, you can’t. I think it’s important to face reality. I’m against war, the death penalty, and prosecuting drug users, for example, but my tax dollars go toward all of these things. I may feel very strongly about this, but I know that others don’t agree with me, and it’s very hard to persuade them to see things my way. Here is where the philosophy of changing the things you can change, accepting the things you can’t change and knowing the difference comes in handy. As the poet said, “you can’t always get what”.

  • PaulJ

    Maybe all corpses should be made available (but not created for) for donation and research.

  • MarthaRN

    Call it abortion of fetal tissue but it is still a baby after 10 weeks. Ever see a botched abortion at 25 weeks gestation? I have seen two- (19985) and each time the doc at the hospital laughed while the mother threw up..sickening.
    25 weeks pic so you can wake up. ISIL would kill that baby in the womb in a heartbeat, while the heart is beating…you really want to align with that group?

  • Hunter

    Oh Martha, please stop….. why are Minnesotans even discussing this?
    Isn’t the refugee issue with potential terrorists coming to your neighborhood much more serious than NPR/MPR using their pulpit to run cover for Planned Parenthood’s scandal? We gave PP over 500 billion and now we are looking at spending money we don’t have, the deficit is real, The Democrats and Obama want to have your kids go further into debt to pay for their idea of utopia.
    A refugee family of 4 costs $64,723.00 each year for four years and that money isn’t budgeted. The Democrats allowed Obama to let EPA kill the coal and Iron Range jobs and now they_ want to make nice and offer more unemployment benefits to appease, to hide their dastardly acts. Why don’t we see that PP’s billions is instead used for the good, for life vs. their death cycle and fetal tissue crap?

    • Ralphy

      Hunter. At least have the courtesy to use your turn signal when you are leaving the road.
      One question – why are you convinced that there is an increased chance of a terrorist attack if we accept refugees?

    • kevins

      We gave Planned Parenthood over 500 billion (dollars?, rupees? last year? Since time began?). And then Obama’s evil EPA agents wiped out all the jobs related to coal, not to mention the jobs on the Range. Yes…and then Star Wars is real, so don’t let children watch! I thank you for the information, but you should change frequencies on the intergalactic transponder you are using.

  • Diggitt

    MarthaRN notwithstanding, legal abortions are the law of the land. Nobody is forced to have one. If I were the patient, I’d be pleased know that my pain served some greater purpose.

    As for “aligning with that group”–which group of laughers are we talking about? That alleged laughing doc (which I never saw, and I will bet Martha didn’t either) or the guy laughing because he just raped someone? Or the guy who just heard that his wife or girlfriend isn’t pregnant anymore? How about the woman who is free from the thought of an unwanted pregnancy? How about the mother who is now free to look after her already existing children?

    As usual, MarthaRN forgets about the people already born and around us AND forgets about all the children in this land currently not getting a good education and not well housed and not well fed. In fact, I will bet MarthaRN votes for the politicians who makes sure these American children stay underfed and undereducated. When MarthaRN gives as much of a damn about American families as she does for fetuses, I will happily laugh for joy at the change that will come across our land.

  • Sue de Nim

    I have mixed and complicated feelings about this. I’m one of those in the apparent majority of Americans who think abortion in most cases is morally abhorrent, but who do not feel it’s legitimate to impose that opinion on those who don’t share the same worldview, and who think abortion should remain safe an legal for the sake of women who find themselves stuck in situations where abortion is the least bad among bad options. I want to reduce the number of abortions by means of incentives, specifically making sure women with crisis pregnancies have good social support if they decide to keep their babies.

    With regard to this question, on the one hand, it’s not immoral to use cadaver tissue of any sort in medical research if the decedent has given permission, or, in the case of minor children who die, the parents do. On the other hand, the prospect of donating tissue might make it easier for a woman to form a moral justification for having an abortion. Even if the question is not asked until the decision to abort has been made, a woman may well be aware of that possibility before she makes the decision. On the third hand, I don’t deny that fetal tissue research has led to major medical breakthroughs in the past and probably will in the future, so if a woman is going to have an abortion anyway, is it wrong to bring some good out of it by using the fetal tissue for research? The hard part is making sure that the decision to abort is truly independent of the decision to donate fetal tissue.

    In any case, I have very little patience for ideologues who see this as a question with an obvious answer and who sneer at those who disagree with them.

    • Lindsey

      In regards to your second point, doesn’t donating tissues after a person has died make it easier to accept their death anyway? So maybe we shouldn’t do that so that people won’t pull the plug on their loved ones…

      If you get rid of it, women aren’t going to stop getting abortions. There were abortions aplenty before that was an option and there will always be abortions aplenty.

      • Sue de Nim

        Yes, but that’s not directly relevant. Ending a viable pregnancy and ending life-prolonging treatment for a dying patient are completely different ethical questions, don’t you think?

        • Lindsey

          Nope. If you believe that the first is murder than the second is murder as well.
          Just as no parent hopes that their kid will get in an accident so that they can donate their kid’s organs, no woman hopes to get pregnant so that they can have an abortion and donate the tissue.

          • Sue de Nim

            You mean to tell me the difference between removing futile medical care and actively intervening to end a life isn’t obvious to you?

          • Lindsey

            If you view abortion as murder, then how can you not view stopping a person’s life as murder? Neither one is alive, both are parasites, just one is dependent on machines.
            It’s like saying no abortions unless there was rape or incest, either it’s murder and it’s wrong or it’s not.

          • Sue de Nim

            Where did you get the idea I “view abortion as murder”? I expect the radical pro-life crowd to display that kind of black-and-white, either-or, all-or-nothing, un-nuanced thinking, and to make the assumption that anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs in totality must be an extremist on the other side, but I gather from your posting history that you’re pro-choice. Clearly, knee-jerk ideologues exist on both ends of the spectrum.

          • Lindsey

            You =/= Sue de Nim, but anti-abortion people. If you, a person, not you, Sue, find this, then that.

          • Sue de Nim

            Okay, I get that you didn’t mean me in particular, but you’re still engaging in ideological, black-and-white, either-or, all-or-nothing, un-nuanced thinking when you insist there’s no middle ground between “either it’s murder and it’s wrong or it’s not.” And again, if you can’t see the difference between actively ending a life and withdrawing medically futile treatment that merely prolongs the dying process, you are out of step with the consensus of the medical ethics community. You are over-simplifying complex issues.

          • Lindsey

            But, see they are both simple. Both are not murder, both do not involve alive people. Both are legal and both are the family’s choice.
            And my original statement still stands. Allowing for organ donation of a child or an adult does not increase the chance that a parent or other decision maker will choose to end that care, just as allowing tissue donation for abortion does not increase abortion. If it did, the abortion stats would go up, but most women who are in that situation don’t even know that it is an option, let alone care about it while making the choice.

          • Sue de Nim

            I do not accept your apparent assumption that the moral statuses of a viable fetus and of a dying patient on life support are the same. I see abortion as more like (but not the same as) withholding medical care from some who might recover and have a good quality of life if care is provided. I don’t think a fetus has the same moral status as a live-born baby, but it’s not the same as “mere tissue” either. A fetus is not, morally speaking, a “parasite.”

          • Lindsey

            But see, that’s your opinion. And you are certainly entitled to your opinion, just as anti-abortion people are entitled to theirs. But it doesn’t matter what your opinion is, it matters what is fact.
            And the fact is that a zygote or a fetus or a fertilized egg is not a human being and is no more alive than a person who is brain dead. And the fact of the matter is that women do not choose to have an abortion so that they can donate tissue, but choose to have an abortion so that they are no longer pregnant.

            And a fetus is nothing more than a parasite, sure a wanted parasite for many people, but a parasite, nonetheless.

          • Sue de Nim

            And your opinion (“And a fetus is nothing more than a parasite, sure a wanted parasite for many people, but a parasite, nonetheless”) is one I find morally abhorrent. You have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to abhor it.

          • Lindsey

            It’s not an opinion.
            Parasite: an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense.
            This is exactly what a pregnancy is, by definition.
            It’s your connotation of the word parasite that makes it morally abhorrent, but according to the unbiased defintion of parasite, it is nothing bad.
            Many would call this a symbiotic relationship, where the mother gets a baby after 9 months.

          • Sue de Nim

            Fine, call a fetus a “parasite” if you wish. It’s the idea that a fetus has the same moral standing as a tapeworm or a tumor that I find abhorrent. You should be glad folks like me see more nuance in the ethics of this issue than you do, because if I thought I had to choose between a radical pro-life stance and your opinion, yours would lose. Rhetoric like yours does the pro-choice cause more harm than good. If you can’t at least acknowledge the value of a potential human life that a fetus represents, and, in reference to this particular topic, agree that safeguards should be in place to make sure that a decision to donate fetal tissue for research is independent of the decision to abort, you’re giving ammunition to the other side.

          • MarthaLasomme

            Lindsey is probably just spouting off because of some unresolved guilt over some related issue here. My spouse was a neonatal intensive care N.P. and she delivered several of the so called parasite fetus, 22-25 week old babies. Funny, that every mother who is pregnant has an idea for naming their child and they call it “my baby” at 20 weeks, not my fetus. Fetal tissue from car accident death maybe_ any other way is pure incentive for the abortion mills. One could say anyone advocating for abortion and the “tissue use” is really a racist, an eugenics fanatic…as was racist Margaret Sangar, the Planned Parenthood originator with her goal to purify the race. The problem is that the decision to donate is never independent from the abortors and their monetary needs.

          • Yanotha Twangai

            One could say that, but one would be distorting the facts – that is to say, lying. Funny thing: there’s another contributor to these pages who persistently misspells Margaret Sanger’s name in exactly the same way.

  • AbdiAhman

    ISIS and Obama’s failed policy should be on the question table before MN becomes the next Detroit.. How about Democrats avoiding voting on the real issues? But fetal tissue issues?, is MPR staff asleep at the wheel or what?

    • Hunter

      If we discuss the real pressing issues, then the progressive candidates and Obama get a bad name as they are supportive of every issue that goes against the mainstream moral values. Obama gets fired up about Planned Parenthood staying in business more than he can utter the words Islamic jihadists. This is why Trump and Cruze and Carson and Carly resonate with most people, only 24% of the voters would go with Hillary or Sanders the misguided fool who says climate change is a bigger threat than Islamist beheading terrorists. wow

  • Riley Dirckx

    Abortions are flat out wrong, now they just want people to feel better because it “is going to a good cause”. The real question is, do we want to live in a country that is based off of politics and science? Or do we want our country have morals.

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    I think that all those folks that don’t support the use of fetal tissue for medical research are a bunch of phonies. When they come down with some horrific disease they certainly turn to science and modern medicine to treat or try to cure them. Many/most of the folks that oppose this type of research are religious, but instead of turning to their “god”, who supposedly “loves them”, they turn to modern science.

    I would love to see a comparative study between people to depend solely on faith/prayer to cure them of disease, and those who depend on modern science/medicine.

    One could make a strong case that a person who treats their disease with anything other than faith/prayer is going against the will of “god”.

    • Sue de Nim

      You could only say, “One could make a strong case that a person who treats their disease with anything other than faith/prayer is going against the will of ‘god’,” if you deliberately misconstrue what people of faith actually believe.

  • John Dilligaf

    It’s amazing the number of posts here that point to this question as anything but nuanced – that it’s simply black and white. Sue is the only poster approaching the topic with a bigger picture awareness, cognizant of the gray areas, and able to rationally make points about the topic. I don’t agree with her 100%, but she sure has more thoughtful, meaningful content here than anyone else.

  • Gary F

    How about babies that are born then killed for parts?

    • Yanotha Twangai

      How about it? Is someone seriously proposing making that legal? Have you heard of it being done?

      • Gary F
        • Yanotha Twangai

          Since the earlier sting videos have been shown to be a sham, and since the article you cite is in a publication notorious for its right-wing distortion of the news, I’d be cautious about taking that story at face value.

          • Gary F

            sham? because PP said so? Because the liberal media refused to cover it? That’s the sham. Have you watched them in full length?

          • Yanotha Twangai

            Even if that did happen, it only proves there should be better controls, not that the use of aborted fetal tissue for research should stop.

          • John Dilligaf

            Watch just one. Then judge for yourself.

  • MarthaRN

    Babies are indeed born and then used for parts to be sold from Planned Parenthood however, PP calls such events, a” live miscarriage” at 25-30 weeks. One of their people admitted on video_ no edited phrases- its there_ and they call those events their pride and joy to “get intact heads and all limbs..that’s the cake!” BTW. all Muslims are against abortion unless its a Christian mother, so does that make the “pro choice to kill babies in the womb” group, actually some kind of Islamist racists when they defy their belief? .Pro choicers call conservatives worse names for disagreeing with their abortion ideas. BTW..why do Pro choicers use that term when clearly they don’t believe in a choice, only in the one way decision to end baby lives. They should call a spade a spade and change their name to ” Pro-Fetal Death” to be honest.

    • Lindsey

      Those tissues are next to useful for what they “are being sold” for. No researcher wants body parts, they want cells. Just one of the reasons your statements are ridiculous.

      • MarthaRN

        Sorry, but Planned eugenics Parenthood videos show their staff praising those events where they get a near term baby, miscarriages are their best deal of the day. Their words, not mine.

    • Bucky_Ball

      The use of the word “baby” is dishonest emotional blackmail. Fetuses are not babies. learn some science please.

      • MarthaRN

        My neighbor is having a “baby” She gave him a name at 30 weeks..I never hear her call her baby a “fetus” Dishonest emotional blackmail is refusing to use real terms instead of sugar coated or made up euphorisms to justify an evil act. Pro Choice is which choice of action exactly? Choice to kill today or wait an other month to abort? Yes sir, that’s choice.
        What is the difference between a baby and a fetus? The umbilical cord

        is the difference. Most pro-abortionists are either racists or their own life is so miserable that they wish their mother would have chosen abortion.

        • Yanotha Twangai

          Did you make up this lie, or are you repeating someone else’s lie? “Most pro-abortionists are either racists or their own life is so
          miserable that they wish their mother would have chosen abortion.”

    • Yanotha Twangai

      Can you cite a reference for your assertion that “all Muslims are against abortion unless its a Christian mother”? I didn’t think so.

      • AbdiAhman

        Quran says it is evil, wrong to kill an innocent and any decent non ISIS Muslim will tell you that an unborn is still innocent.

        • Yanotha Twangai

          Are you Martha? I was asking Martha in particular about the “unless it’s a Christian mother” part. That sounded to me like an Islamophobic lie.

  • AndyBriebart

    Oh, no! “Today’s Question” Is becoming “This Week’s Question” again!

  • AbdiAhman

    Its OK, MPR always does this, postpones discussion of real events to protect the liberal side..god forbid they ask questions about the DFL candidate’s list of lies over the past decade. I liked her lie about being shot at while getting off a plane..so hilarious as the photos show her with a child and flowers. But does the media ask her about her lies? No they won’t. Asking about Trump, if he saw any celebraters after 9-11 is better news.