Government scientists will no longer conduct research using fetal tissue, the Trump administration said Wednesday, granting the wishes of anti-abortion groups and overruling the concerns of scientists.

The Department of Health and Human Services said it has discontinued all internal research that involves fetal tissue, which is obtained through elective abortions. External fetal-tissue projects that receive government funding will continue, but any grant application that is either new or up for renewal will require the approval of an ethics advisory board, the department said in a statement.

“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” HHS said in a statement.


Fetal tissue has been used for a wide variety of research in the U.S. dating back to the 1930s, including the development of several vaccines and studies of genetic diseases. There have long been strict rules around how it can be procured and used.

HHS’ decision is a victory for anti-abortion activists, who have decried the use of fetal tissue in research as unethical. But scientists have defended its use, pointing out that fetal tissue research has been essential to developing therapies that have saved millions of lives. The development of vaccines against polio, rubella, measles, chickenpox, adenovirus, and rabies all involved fetal tissue, as did the discovery of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, and hemophilia.

The Trump administration said it would continue to fund research into alternatives to fetal tissue from elective abortions. Last year, NIH said it planned to devote as much as $20 million to work on such alternatives.

The administration also announced it was canceling a contract with a University of California, San Francisco lab that was testing new HIV therapies with fetal tissue. HHS had been extending that contract for 90 days at a time while it carried out an audit of federally funded fetal tissue research, but decided against extending it again after it expired Wednesday.

Megan Thielking contributed reporting. 

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  • With all my respect to President Trump who is doing excellent job in many other areas, I think this is one of most unintelligent decisions of the administration which puts religious and ethical believes of one group of people above the health and well-being of millions of others. Fetus material will always exist as a by-product of abortions while abortions are not fully banned. This means that the most valuable material for research will be just thrown away. As to full ban on abortions – I do not believe this will ever happen, as this will be the most unethical decision for millions of women.

  • We do not need science, we have a president who has all the answers. He follows a hallowed tradition, from the Pope who had Galileo publicly withdraw support of Copernican cosmology, through Stalin’s embrace of Lysenko, down to other 20th century “strong heads of state” who substituted their ideology for science. Build walls, not universities.

    • I doubt that this is his decision. I am pretty sure he had to go along with his hard-liner voters just because he needed their support. This is very unfortunate and hurts both science and health, however in the present political environment he does not have much choice. Too bad for all of us.

  • So the progress is stunned because of a few people who don’t understand what we are dealing with. Again…

  • Fetal tissue is essential for various important life-saving research for the greater good of human health. It should not be banned as research material – as long as there is no “profit” in the procurement. Even those dead-set against abortion should open their eyes – and compare the fetal tissue donation to organ donation. The death of a fetus then becomes equally meaningful.

  • I guess our president only cares about fetuses and living people in the US, as long as they are white males.He certainly doesn’t care about women or anybody who has a different skin color-even though he appears orange.

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