Rep. Bucshon: Aborted Baby Parts Trafficking Probe Not Halting ‘Vital Medical Research’

By Lauretta Brown | December 5, 2016 | 10:41 AM EST

Dr. Akhilesh Pandey, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, poses alongside a mass spectrometer in his laboratory in Baltimore. Pandey's research analyzes both adult and fetal tissue, and by identifying which proteins are present, he can get clues that could be used to help detect cancer in adults earlier. (AP Photo)

( – Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), a cardiac surgeon, countered claims Thursday that the work of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives was halting “vital medical research.”

The House debated providing additional funding to the panel, which is looking into the ethics of the medical practices of abortion service providers and the business practices of the procurement organizations who sell baby body parts.

Bucshon pointed out that “human fetal tissue research represents only a tiny fraction of the overall scientific enterprise. In fact, only 0.2 percent used human fetal tissue.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) claimed that the panel “put lifesaving research and women’s healthcare at risk,” and “had a chilling effect on research, drying up the supply of needed tissue for research on multiple sclerosis and threatening research on other diseases from A to Z, Alzheimer’s to Zika.”

“Fetal tissue research has historically had broad, bipartisan support. It is the basis for key vaccines that have saved literally millions and millions of lives, including the Polio vaccine,” Schakowsky claimed.

In contrast, Bucshon said in his floor speech that “any argument from the 1950s or even the 1990s for that matter about biomedical research is outdated, and the actual record is clear. Human fetal tissue did not directly result in a vaccine for diseases like measles, similarly the Nobel prize was not awarded for curing Polio using human fetal tissue.”

Bucshon was likely referencing an interim report finding of the panel that “while it is commonly claimed that fetal tissue was used to produce the polio vaccine, this is largely false. The polio vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk in 1955 using a monkey cell line, and is still produced using monkey cells.”

“Of the 75 vaccines in use today, not one was produced with fetal tissue. Furthermore, the NIH has not funded fetal tissue transplant grants for nearly 10 years,” Bucshon emphasized. “That should tell us something.”

“We examined major grants that were funded by the NIH over the last five years and found that human fetal tissue research represents only a tiny fraction of the overall scientific enterprise. In fact, only 0.2 percent used human fetal tissue,” he continued.

Bucshon added that only “a small subset of NIH-funded grants uses fetal tissue to study things like birth defects. These types of grants represent only 1 in 100,000 tissue or cells for these studies, could be derived from another source than aborted babies, like premature, natural demise infants whose parents are willing to donate.”

“The goal of the House Select panel is not to oppose science but rather to determine how best to support science so that its important work can advance as rapidly as possible without ethical compromise,” Bucshon said. “As the history of biomedical research in the 20th century clearly demonstrates, when scientific research is separated from ethics or the law, grave injustices can occur.”

The House voted Thursday - 234 to 181 along party lines - to provide the $800,000 in additional funding to the panel.

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