In November 1984, The Interim front page story (“Aborted babies used for vaccine”), attracted national media attention.  The reaction to information that the current rubella vaccine was developed from cells of an aborted baby varied from amused credulity that pro-lifers would reveal see no objection to continued use of the vaccine, while others are distressed that their children have already received it and others worry about what to do for their children coming up for vaccination. The WI-38 strain of rubella vaccine was cultured on tissue obtained from a baby aborted in Sweden in 1962.  Connaught Laboratories in Toronto, Canadian manufacturers of the vaccine, have confirmed that the child in question was between three and four months’ gestation age.  The baby was obtained through a “medically-indicated therapeutic abortion (not as the result of a miscarriage or stillbirth as has been suggested).


Human “guinea pigs”


Information published by the World Health Information contradicts some of the information supplied by Connaught.  The research was discussed at a joint world Health Organization/AIBS symposium on “Standardization of Virus Vaccine,” held in Geneva in December 1976.  The published documents state that the organs of the fetus were removed for the original research and that the fetus was aborted because he/she had rubella.  It goes on to report that this was “the 27th of our fetuses aborted during the 1964 epidemic.”  Tests to determine the safety of the vaccine were carried out in Japan where women scheduled for abortion were injected with the vaccine.


It is not possible, at this time, to determine whether the year the baby was aborted was 1962, as stated by Connaught, or whether it was 1964, as stated by the WHO.


Using pre-born babies, both before and after abortions, as human “guinea pigs” raises many ethical questions; one of the most important is that of “informed consent.”  The Nuremberg Code on Human Experimentation declares that for research to be ethical the subject must give consent, “The person is violated if it is unwillingly – even if only uncomprehendingly – used for the benefit of others.”


In British Columbia, clinical trials are currently taking place on a new polio vaccine cultured on the WI-38 strain.  Parents of children between two and three months of age in good general health are given a three-page consent form to sign.  The form states that participation is voluntary, that there is a “small but real risk with all oral polio vaccines of the vaccinated child … developing paralysis from the vaccine.  (1 chance in 6.7 million doses from the current vaccine which is cultured from monkey glands \; side risks from the new vaccine are expected to be the same.)  While the consent form describes the origin of the new vaccine as cultured diploid cells from the WI-38 strain, it does not give a definition of “diploid,” nor does it state the source of WI-38.


Rubella may alert people.


As media interest in the vaccine matter grew, Rev. Jack Gallagher of the Cardinal Carter Centre for Bio-ethics issued a statement on behalf of the Archdiocese of Toronto.  Father Gallagher said that there was no objection to the vaccine as far as the Roman Catholic Church was concerned.  As the vaccine was cultured so long ago, anyone accepting the vaccine today would not be in formal co-operation with abortion.


Following the annual general meeting of Campaign Life Canada at the end of November, delegates issued a statement that protested the use of aborted children for medical experimentation.  The statement stressed that it is an individual decision of parents to decide whether or not their children should be vaccinated, and urged all levels of government to immediately fund research to provide a vaccine that would be safe and less objectionable to many Canadians. 


Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life, points out that the source of the vaccine, used exclusively in Canada for the past five years, was not public knowledge until recently.  “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as human experimentation is concerned,” he said.  “We hope the publicity surrounding the rubella vaccine will alert people to the seeming lack of ethics of such research and that researchers will see that the ends do not always justify the means.”