U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn and Ken Buck signed on to a letter to the Trump Administration on Tuesday advising against a suspension of the ban on fetal tissue research — which they described as “research using aborted baby body parts” — in pursuit of a treatment for COVID-19.
“Aborted fetal tissue from ongoing abortions, however, has never been used in the production of a single vaccine,” reads the Lamborn-led letter, which over 120 Republican House members co-signed. “While a few old cell lines derived from abortion in the 1960s and 1970s continues to be used for a small handful of vaccines, most vaccines today use more efficient, modern cell lines and production techniques.”
The Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University notes that some vaccines to prevent rubella, measles, rabies, poliomyelitis, hepatitis A, chickenpox and smallpox use tissue from abortions. Scientists seeking to use fetal tissue in mice to create more realistic trials of potential COVID-19 treatments on humans have run into a 2019 federal ban on using donated tissue. The Washington Post found that in February, an immunologist at the National Institutes of Health sought permission to study mice implanted with human lung tissue who could therefore be infected with COVID-19, but received no reply.
The Republicans’ letter followed a similar one from 15 Democratic attorneys general urging Trump to lift the ban, pointing to research in humanized mice about the transmission of Zika virus from mothers to babies, as well as studies into AIDS and Alzheimer's disease.
“We agree with the scientists at the National Institutes of Health. The present moment is not a time for politics,” they wrote.
Lamborn’s letter, however, called the use of humanized mice an “antiquated technology,” citing the congressional testimony from two representatives of an anti-abortion research group. The House members suggested taking existing treatments for other maladies and applying them to COVID-19 patients, using adult stem cells, or testing on mice that do not receive fetal tissue implants as alternatives.
“Thank you, Mr. President, for your decision to halt the grisly practice of using aborted babies for experiments,” the letter concludes, adding that the administration should fund “ethical, successful alternatives to combat COVID-19.”