Trump administration attacked
over limits on fetal tissue research

coronavirusAmidst a race by pharmaceutical companies to develop a coronavirus vaccine, Democrats are pressing the Trump administration to reverse its executive order limiting research utilizing cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue. Pro-life and religious leaders are urging the Trump administration to resist the pressure to rescind the rules prohibiting fetal tissue research and calling upon the drug companies to conduct moral research that does not use illicit cell lines.

As Children of God for Life, which seeks to end the use of aborted fetal material in vaccines and medicines, notes, whether it is seasonal flu or COVID-19, “the need to produce large quantities of vaccine quickly has been a problem for many years as pharmaceutical companies used chicken eggs to cultivate their viruses” and because “it takes several months and millions of (chicken) eggs needed to produce the vaccines … so many companies began to turn to other cell lines for faster production.” Some companies, such as Protein Sciences, utilize other sources such as insect eggs, as a growth medium to develop vaccines. Since the 1960s, vaccines for chickenpox, hepatitis A, Rubella, and shingles have been researched and manufactured using aborted tissue or cell lines developed from aborted babies.

Moderna, a leader in vaccine research that made news in March for reported breakthroughs in COVID-19 research, uses aborted fetal cell lines. Debi Vinnedge, executive director of Children of God for Life, said that Moderna used the Spike protein which uses the bodies own antibodies to block and destroy viruses so an individual will not become infected. But the Spike protein is produced using HEK 293 aborted fetal cells.

Janssen Pharmaceutical, owned by Johnson and Johnson, is also boasting breakthroughs on a coronavirus vaccine, but Children of God for Life exposed that they also are using an unethical source for their research. In 2001, Janssen developed their PER C6 Ad5 using retinas from an 18-week aborted child. Vinnedge notes that in 19 years, Janssen has not developed a workable vaccine or treatment from PER C6 Ad5. The Food and Drug administration has flagged PER C6 Ad5 as potentially dangerous to recipients of vaccines and treatments.

“This is about as irresponsible as the industry can get,” says Vinnedge “We have a worldwide pandemic where millions of people are in need of treatment and prevention of disease. Yet Johnson and Johnson is choosing to produce a vaccine that a large number of people of good conscience will refuse due to the aborted fetal cells.”

Vinnedge added that “there is a multitude of moral options that are safer and quite frankly, utilize a more modern technology.” She noted that Sanofi Pasteur is developing a COVID-19 vaccine using its own recombinant DNA platform, which does not utilize aborted fetal tissue in its research or development.

The Washington Post reported on March 18 that the Trump administration’s ban on the use of aborted fetal tissue was endangering COVID-19 research, cures, and vaccinations. Vinnedge said, “that accusation is laughable at best and nothing more than a political maneuver,” saying that there are plenty of alternatives for research and development.

Democrats have been pressing President Donald Trump to rescind an executive order he signed in 2019 that limits aborted fetal tissue and cell research. In March, Democrats sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, stating: “Because of your restrictions, (the National Institutes of Health) is unable to utilize human fetal tissue to develop animal models of COVID-19 that can test potential vaccines and treatments to decelerate or even end this global health crisis. This inaction may ultimately put Americans further at risk of disease or death from COVID-19.”

Pro-life and religious leaders have called upon the administration to resist such pressure. In an April 17 open letter, Catholic bishops, evangelical leaders, medical groups, and pro-life activists, told Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, “As our nation works to defend itself from the deadly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), we write to express our gratitude to you and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for all of its efforts to combat the virus and to ask for your help to ensure that Americans will have access to vaccines that are free from any connection to abortion.” The letter was copied to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Azar.

The letter was signed by four Catholic bishops including Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, as well as Lila Rose of Live Action, Jeffrey Barrows of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, Michelle Cretella of the American College of Pediatricians, Russell Moore from the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty, Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund Commission, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America, Travis S. Weber of the Family Research Council, and Children of God for Life’s Debi Vinnedge, among others.

They said, “It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience. Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines.”

The signatories concluded, “Commissioner Hahn, we urgently and respectfully implore you to not only ensure that Americans will have access to a COVID vaccine that is free of ethical concerns, but to encourage and incentivize pharmaceutical companies to use only ethical cell lines or processes for producing vaccines.”