Commentary

FDA Contracts with Company That Sold Fetal Tissue for Tax-Payer Funded Research

Melanie Israel
By Melanie Israel | August 10, 2018 | 9:18 AM EDT

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Earlier this week, CNS News reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently signed a one-year, $15,900 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources to acquire human fetal tissue “for implantation into severely immune-compromised mice to create chimeric animals that have a human immune system.”

According to the government’s presolicitation notice, “ABR is the only company in the U.S. capable of supplying” the fetal tissue and “no other company or organization is capable of fulfilling the need.”

In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released disturbing undercover videos of abortion industry representatives discussing the sale of aborted baby body parts. The ensuing outrage spawned congressional investigation in the House and Senate and resulted in multiple criminal referrals.

ABR is among the entities under referral for criminal investigation for possibly profiting from the sale of fetal tissue from aborted babies. Among its sources for fetal tissue are Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics.

Fetal tissue used for research purposes may be obtained via elective abortions. Such research is legal, but federal law prohibits buying or selling fetal tissue for valuable consideration. “Valuable consideration” does not include payments “associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”

According to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 2016 report, several tissue procurement companies—including ABR—“have paid Planned Parenthood Federation of America to acquire aborted fetuses, and then sold the fetal tissue to their respective customers at substantially higher prices than their documented costs.”

Contrary to the intent of federal law, these companies did not conduct an analysis of their costs when determining fees. Rather, after committee investigation, they resorted to “post hoc accounting rationalizations … in an attempt to justify their fees.”

The House and Senate committees sent criminal referrals for ABR to the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the district attorney in Riverside, California. In December 2017, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department “appears to be laying the groundwork for an investigation into the transfer of fetal tissue” and requested unredacted documents related to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation.

The FDA’s decision to contract with ABR is troubling, to say the least. In a statement, the FDA said that ABR has “provided assurances with all applicable legal requirements … relating to research involving human fetal tissue” and that the FDA is not involved with how ABR sources the tissue. In other words, the FDA is simply taking ABR at its word, despite the troubling findings of congressional investigations.

 

According to CNS News, the FDA has contracted with ABR eight times since 2012. Two of those contracts were granted after House and Senate committees issued criminal referrals involving ABR.

More troubling, still, is the continued use of fetal tissue from aborted babies being used for research purposes when more ethical alternatives exist. Dr. David Prentice, vice president and research director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement:

“It is outrageous that the FDA would aid in the trafficking of aborted baby parts and fetal tissue. This not only fosters government-sponsored participation in unethical research but continues use of outdated scientific methods.

“Humanized mice can and have been made, for years, using ethical cell sources, including umbilical cord blood and peripheral blood stem cells. High-quality, modern scientific research has no need for unethical, tainted practices and grisly sources. Our government should lead in ethics and in science, and should rescind any contracts for or use of aborted fetal tissue.”

He’s exactly right, and last month Congress took a step in the right direction. On July 11, the House Appropriations Committee passed a fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill that includes language prohibiting funding for research using fetal tissue obtained from aborted babies. However, the Senate version of the funding bill contains no such provision and it remains to be seen which chamber’s version of the bill will ultimately be signed into law.

In the meantime, the sad reality continues: Unborn children are aborted every day in clinics across the country, and their body parts are divvied up and procured by companies that in turn provide the tissue for taxpayer-funded research.

Melanie Israel is a research associate for the DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.


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