Misplaced priorities: Trump administration cuts back on medical research using fetal tissue to please anti-abortionists

June 7, 2019 • 9:15 am

So much for Republicans and conservatives valuing the sanctity of life! They’d would prefer to have fetal tissue—derived from abortions—destroyed than to be used for medical research that could save lives. Use of tissue: possible saving of lives. Destruction of tissue: no saving of lives. Trump administration decision: Destroy the tissue. Such is the cockeyed logic of religiously-influenced zealots.

According to several sources, including the New York Times and Science articles below (click on screenshots), the Trump administration announced two days ago that they were going to sharply cut back on federal spending on medical research using fetal tissue, i.e. tissue from aborted fetuses that would otherwise be discarded.


The new plan, adopted after a nine-month federal review, includes the following:

  • No scientists working directly for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be able to conduct studies using fetal tissue. There are now only three such projects out of 3,065 projects; they will have to shut down after they use up their current store of fetal tissue.
  • A $2 million/year NIH contract with the University of California at San Francisco, looking for cures for HIV using fetal tissue, will be terminated immediately. That contract has been in place for six years.
  • While no other ongoing studies in universities and other institutes funded by the NIH will be terminated, henceforth anyone applying for NIH money to do research using fetal tissue will have to undergo a special panel review.  (At present, of its $37 billion annual budget, the NIH spends about $115 million on such extramural research for about 200 funded studies.)
  • A specially constituted “ethics advisory board” will review every grant application, with the public invited to nominate the board members for each grant. The secretary of Health and Human Services can still overrule the committee’s recommendation. Each board must consist of 14-10 people, at least a third of them scientists, and at least one ethicist, one physician, one attorney, and—get this—one theologian.

Why use fetal tissue? The tissues used in research come from elective or spontaneous abortion, and are used to establish cell lines to work on diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV.  Much of this work aims at transplanting fetal tissue into adults or children (see below). Fetal tissue cell lines were, in fact, critical to developing polio vaccine in 1982. This paper from a book put out by the National Academies Press explains why fetal tissue is used for such work:

Cell lines are established by culturing fetal cells in such a way that they continue growing and multiplying in laboratory dishes. Such cells can be used to test a drug’s ability to damage genetic material or to test the effects of specific viral (or other types) of infection. Because the cells multiply, a small number of cells harvested from a dead fetus can be greatly expanded and used either as a source of more cell lines or for transplants.

Fetal tissue has been used for transplantation for two reasons. First, certain fetal tissues lack cell-surface markers found in mature tissue that induce immune system reactions in transplant recipients and lead to tissue rejection and transplant failure. Thus, fetal tissue eludes these body defenses. In addition, groups of different kinds of fetal cells can be separated from one another in the laboratory to remove those cells that may trigger a recipient’s immune system. Second, certain areas of the body do not regenerate after birth or after a few years of life, so the use of mature tissue for transplantation is not possible. Adult brain cells, for example, regenerate slowly if at all, but when fetal brain cells are transplanted they will grow readily.

According to medical researchers, there is no substitute at present for using fetal tissue, though the NIH, in view of this decision, is starting to look for substitutes. But remember, the tissue, if not used for medical research, would simply be destroyed through incineration.

You already know the reason the Trump administration made this decision: it’s a sop to its pro-life constituency that somehow regards using fetal tissue as destroying the dignity of what they see as a human being. The argument that this crucial research would somehow promote abortions won’t wash, for no woman would have an abortion simply to provide material for medical research. Can you imagine a woman saying, “I’m not going to have this baby, for I think its tissues may help cure cancer”?

To get an idea of the nature of the objections, which surely must be derived primarily from religion, here are a few statements from the articles.  From the NYT:

Anti-abortion groups were quick to applaud the decision and played down any effect on medical research.

“Most Americans do not want their tax dollars creating a marketplace for aborted baby body parts, which are then implanted into mice and used for experimentation,” said Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life. “This type of research involves the gross violation of basic human rights and certainly the government has no business funding it.”

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, declared, “The government has no business subsidizing researchers that traffic the body parts of aborted babies.”

. . . “There are ample ethically derived sources and alternatives,” said David Prentice, vice president and research director for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group. He called the move by the Health and Human Services Department “a good step, but a preliminary step,” adding that he hoped the administration would end federal funding to all universities for research involving fetal tissue from abortions.

From the Science article:

Groups that oppose fetal tissue research and had encouraged the Trump administration to undertake the review are applauding the moves. “This is a major pro-life victory and we thank President Trump for taking decisive action. It is outrageous and disgusting that we have been complicit, through our taxpayer dollars, in the experimentation using baby body parts,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a Washington, D.C., lobbying group that opposes abortion.

David Prentice, vice president and research director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Arlington, Virginia, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony list, added: “Our government will now invest in effective research methods that do not rely on the destruction of human life.”

Let us be clear again: these research projects do not cause the destruction of human life, even if you see an abortion as “the destruction of human life”. Nor does it violate “basic human rights”: the Supreme Court has ruled that these abortions are legal, and I suspect that any women who doesn’t want her aborted fetus used for research has the right to do that.  There are two alternatives for an aborted fetus: destroy it through incineration or use it for research that may help save lives. Given these choices, only one makes sense.

h/t: Grania

100 thoughts on “Misplaced priorities: Trump administration cuts back on medical research using fetal tissue to please anti-abortionists

  1. Not all places will incinerate the tissue – some have ridiculous laws that you have to bury the remains in a ceremony.

      1. Here are two good articles about disposal of foetal (and embryonic) tissue https://slate.com/technology/2019/05/dead-fetus-burial-laws-personhood-indiana-texas.html and https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/state-mandated-mourning-for-aborted-fetuses/482688/.

        The Atlantic article explains why you “embellished” when you used the word “ceremony” because the very act of formally burying or cremating the tissue constitutes a ceremony;it imposes a rite on the disposal, and a rite is a form of ceremony, so you didn’t really embellish very much. And you know if they could legislate some kind of demonstrably religious (Christian) ceremony, they would. After all, burying the tissue in a landfill or incinerating it with medical waste is prohibited, yet these without doubt qualify as burial and cremation. The Atlantic article also discusses the ridiculously wasteful and inane acts of cremating and burying foetal tissue.

        BTW, who gets the bill for these imposed services?

        1. Oh and you’re right about the costs! Not just internment and cremation but the transportation and all the processing costs. I’m working in a health sciences department right now and mapping out their processes so I know disposals of cadavers etc. is a lot of processing, tracking, and transporting.

          1. What’s involved in disposing of these cadavers with all the “processing, tracking, and transporting? Were used for dissection?

            1. All parts of a cadaver are carefully tracked. There is also a huge component surrounding dignity of a body and people who deal with bodies take it seriously. Students visiting an anatomy lab have to watch a video and sign forms and lab access is tightly guarded. When the body is done with, the full body or all its parts is transported to a crematorium. A letter is sent to the family thanking them and they are invited to a ceremony with others as a thank you. They can also choose to have the remains placed at a crypt for the institution or have the remains returned to them. The anatomy lab also handles notifying the chief coroner and providing a death certificate on donation. I know transporting a body is st the cost of the donating family when they donate the body but it’s cheaper than a funeral. The funeral home does that transportation and that is because not just anyone can handle remains and there are audits and certifications required. It’s all quite interesting.

              1. This is … … as of my Person, Ms Diana.

                Dead at ten weeks’ time from initial
                diagnosis. Fulminating. Pancreatic cancer.

                William wanted his corpse given over
                for scientific study. That was done.


              2. That’s very reassuring. I am planing to donate my body, and I guess it would be nice to think I will be respected for doing so.

        2. After all, burying the tissue in a landfill or incinerating it with medical waste is prohibited, yet these without doubt qualify as burial and cremation.

          I was thinking last night of a friend who, in the year or so before I moved out of town, had lost both of his legs (one below, one above the knee) to complications of long-term diabetes.
          Having been brought up by a mother he hated, and forced to adhere to the Jewish religion against his wishes, you can imagine the invective he would heap upon anyone foolish enough to try to force him into having his discarded flesh disposed of with some sort of religious ceremony.
          Actually, it would likely be an educational experience, but not a pleasant one.
          I haven’t had a mail from him for several years now, which doen’t bode well. Probably his Mum has finally regained control over his body and planted his dead meat in direct contradiction to his wishes. He was hoping to out live her, but with the circulation going, he wasn’t a happy bunny last time I saw him.

          BTW, who gets the bill for these imposed services?

          The owner of the dead meat, which would have been my friend when his legs came off, but his mother on the assumption that he is totally dead meat now.
          Different countries, different laws. Bodies belong to the next of kin in the UK.

    1. I find those laws to not be just beyond stupid, but immensely cruel. A way to add burden and cost to an already challenging time.

        1. Precisely- they don’t put that in the law book though, do they. Because that’d be the giveaway it’s all about religion.

    2. I knew, Ms Diana, of this ( some USA states’
      GILEAD – like / ceremonial ‘funeral events’
      of allegedly ‘ensouled’ tissue pieces /
      tissue parts / women’s unwanted, unneeded
      and, thus removed, lumps ) as well.

      ” May the Lord Open ” and ” Praise Be. ”

      A handmaid, Ofherod, is all that I was.
      y1975 through y1990; then onward to the
      present. For the Commander, Commander
      Edinsmaier. Of the MRA, the incels and
      the MCPs of Gilead – USA. Posted to him,
      to Commander Edinsmaier, I was Ofherod.

      Religions = poisons.


      1. Would be enlightenment if all pro-lifers were obliged to exhume the remains of the fetuses they enforced to be buried. To find that nature hath taken them back without remorse.

        ‘Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole?’

        1. For those who husbanded the golden grain
          And those who flung it to the winds like Rain
          Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d
          As, buried once, Men want dug up again

          – Omar Khayyam

      2. Hamlet, Act 4 Scene 2

        We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots.

  2. Their consistent use of ‘baby body parts’ to describe fetal tissue is something else. I wonder, do they conceptualize it as a tiny baby arm being ‘implanted’ into mice? An ear perhaps? It is all so fruitless and stupid.

    1. Yes. They think the mean scientists are pulling a part dead babies. This is exactly how they envision it. They really should visit a lab

  3. Back to the same line of stupidity that we had under Bush Jr. It would just be eye-rolling stupid if it wasn’t so destructive of biomedical progress.

  4. Presumably the president is 100% behind yhis. This illustrates the way the president thinks everything works : products being sold, individual people making money off it. In this case, as PCC(E) wrote above (but my words here): the president sees an abortion industry forming to sell the material to white lab coat wearing scientists like in a Godzilla movie. I’m not sure the science fiction movie-view is very far from the president’s actual thought process.

    The thought that a mother isn’t at all incentivized to get abortions for cash is non existent.

    1. I suspect DT doesn’t actually consider the issue in itself, and doesn’t really care one way or the other. So, he cannot be 100% behind these actions. He just determines if he can benefit from such a move and then is willing to act like he’s 100% behind it.

      1. Yes. His political positions on this, on pretty much anything, are just a jumble of meaningless contradictions.

        It’s a kind of open secret among his supporters that he doesn’t give a shit about any of them, and that he’d leave them to drown in a duck pond if rescuing them meant getting his feet wet. They’re only there for the nice juicy chops he throws their way. Even the very dumbest Trump supporter isn’t dumb enough to actually think he gives two shits about them.

        It’s all as coldly transactional as the average Trump intercourse session.

  5. Just ignorance and religion looking for that road to the past. It is kind of like Trump putting tariffs on everything coming from Mexico to force Mexico to stop people coming from Guatemala. A top reporter just came back from Guatemala, asking the people – Why they come. Their answer – no food, they are starving. Climate change in Guatemala and drought.

    1. This to me is heartbreaking news, Randall.
      Hunger is preventable; it is curable.

      In this age of science, thus of information,
      THEN Any going hungry is a c h o i c e,
      a choice which evil and powerful people are
      making ( likeliest for their own greed or
      gain ) to decide to determinedly harm others.


  6. These actions by the Trump administration is a reflection of how socially conservative/religious people operate in the American political system. They are so highly motivated in their beliefs (as perverse as they may be) that they are relentless in their agitation for them. They never give up and conservative media is on the air 24/7.

    I realized this about the social conservatives back in 2004, shortly after that year’s election when George W. Bush defeated John Kerry. I was driving my car and randomly changing the channels on the radio. I stumbled across Sean Hannity. I caught him ranting against John Kerry even though the election was over! I thought to myself, wow, these guys never give up. I then paid more attention to conservative media and came to understand how it dominates the minds of its listeners and viewers. It was perpetual indoctrination. Democrats and liberals have been slow to realize this, being poorer politicians and much less ruthless than their opponents. Awash with money from rich donors, conservatives have been able to dominate state politics and gain control of most legislatures and governorships. Gerrymandering was the result, making it much more difficult for Democrats to break their stranglehold on most state governments.

    The results of the 2018 election suggest that things may be changing since Democrats made gains on the state level. It remains to be seen whether liberals can maintain this enthusiasm. Changing demographics help liberals, but that is no guarantee of victory. Certainly, the conservatives will not change their minds or their tactics. Nor will they stop voting.

    1. Yes, the question is how much longer can gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the ruthless wielding of parliamentary procedures staunch the rising tide of shifting demographics?

    2. This helps explain why, when I listen to non-right wing talk shows that discuss politics, they invariably get right wing callers drawing false equivalencies between Trump and Hillary Clinton and demanding that Hillary and everything she did or was imagined to have done be damned and “Lock Her UP!”. Invariably, the host reminds the caller that Hillary isn’t president and the discussion is about the current president. Of course, this makes no difference to these callers.

      1. Last night on Fox News, Sean Hannity — the guy who cheered on the Trump-led chants of “Lock her up!” regarding Hillary Clinton — had the chutzpah and utter lack of self-awareness to bemoan, un-ironically, Nancy Pelosi’s purported private, behind-closed-doors comment that Donald Trump should be in prison for his multiple obstructions of justice as “beyond despicable” and the type of thing “that happens in banana republics.”

        You can’t make this crap up.

        1. “Lock her up!” It’s all projection; it’s a transparent tactic, yet millions fall for it. And Trump calls Pelosi “a nasty person”. While Trump is the definition of a nasty person. I didn’t think it was possible to be as contrary as Trump is. The other day he said he was the most transparent President in history.

          You can’t make this crap up!

    3. Some encouraging news this morning: a new poll shows Biden beating Trump in Texas by 4 points!
      The times they are a’changing.

      1. According to the latest tracking data, Trump’s approval rating is underwater in several key swing states, including the Brexit-belt of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin that he carried last time out.

        This is bad news for a Republican candidate who won a lower percentage of the popular vote in the last presidential election than Mitt Romney did in 2012.

    4. I said recently to some friends, what we (the secularists) find exhausting exhilarates them (the religious). They feel energized by challenging every law and trying to wedge in their own religious agendas and turn the state into a theocracy while we find it completely exhausting.

  7. It’s interesting that the evangelical Christian who heads the NIH is supportive of this type of research. Of course, Collins actually thinks about others as opposed to the POSPOTUS

  8. So are these groups also against organ donation and donating one’s body to science (med schools)? How does one justify organ donation but not use of fetal tissue?

    1. How does one justify organ donation but not use of fetal tissue?

      By invoking the mystical incantation “Aborted baby body parts! Aborted baby body parts!! Aborted baby body parts!!!”

    2. Because it’s only prebirth humans whose lives are sacred. Once you’re outside the womb, you’re on your own.

      That’s the only rational explanation I can think of for why there is a correlation between being anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment or anti-gun control or anti-universal healthcare.

      1. The strangest paradox for me is how you can be anti-abortion and anti-contraception. WTF is that about?

          1. That is precisely it.

            Bad people (that is, anyone who doesn’t loudly espouse our Xtian morality) must be forced to suffer in every way possible.


            1. And how, one might ask the lawmakers, does this improve women’s health? The only answer I can think of is that women, knowing the punishment, will never get pregnant unless they mean it. This, they won’t need abortions, won’t go through pregnancy, and so on. Improved health.

          1. Thanks for the link Jenny. I don’t think I agreed with any of their reasons. Most are plain silly.

            1. This seems to be true:

              Contraception separates sex from reproduction

              The trouble is, it’s merely a statement of fact*. It could equally well appear in the list of arguments in favour of contraception.

              *accepting that no form of contraception is 100% effective.

        1. The thought popped into my head after I posted – and it has already been alluded to by other posters – that, if your objective is not to protect life but to enslave women so as to spend their lives producing more fodder for the faith, the paradox goes away completely.

  9. Fucking hell. This has been an issue since the W. administration. This research could save millions of lives, if not from disease, then at least from fast-progressing and life-altering mental diseases like Alzheimer’s.

    I’m so sick of this shit.

    I always try to put myself in the minds of those who vehemently disagree with me. I guess the reason for anti-abortion activists to oppose this kind of research is that they believe fetuses are human beings, and they don’t want their “bodies” desecrated (especially without their consent, as organ donors have given). However, how large is this constituency? Even if you’re a Republican, do you really need to cater to them (unless you’re a Representative from a district full of them, or perhaps a Senator from one of the states full of them)?

    1. “However, how large is this constituency? Even if you’re a Republican, do you really need to cater to them. . . ?”

      Per my post below (#11), even if it were a constituency of one woman who considered her fetus a baby and wanted to give it a respectful burial–I’d say yes, we’d really need to cater to her.

      1. Do you know of any women who sought to have the remains of their aborted fetuses buried who have been denied a request to make such arrangements by an abortion provider? I’m unaware of this being a problem in need of legal redress, Gary.

        1. I was responding to BJ’s implication that the validity of objecting to having a fetus used for stem cell research hinged on the number (“how large is this constituency?”) of women who had such objections. But perhaps I misunderstood BJ’s point.

      2. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I’m not aware of any law that forbids women who have abortions to have the remains treated as they wish them to be. I agree completely with your post in #11 that they should have that right. If they don’t want their fetal tissue donated to science — whether they want it buried, disposed of medically, or something else — their decision should reign. But that’s a personal decision.

    2. I’m pretty sure that the person has to consent to having any tissue used for science. My dad had to sign a consent form for students to study his tumour. People donate their bodies to anatomy labs and they (while alive of course) as well as executors and loved ones sign forms to let this all take place. So, why not the outrage at using human bodies & tissues for any science or teaching? Because it’s abortions and in their minds, it’s wrong and they feel icky anyone is benefitting from it.

      1. Yes, I believe they do have to consent (or, at the very least, not care what happens/make any requests regarding the fetal tissue), so I imagine the thinking from people who don’t want such research done regardless is somewhere along the lines of “the fetus [or person, as they see it] could not consent to its remains being used for medical research. Furthermore, since abortion is murder, we should not use the remains of the murdered fetus for scientific research because it’s disrespectful or something.” In trying to put myself in opponents’ frame of mind, that’s what I can muster, though I should go out and do some further reading from people who do hold this position to find out if they have other reasons as well (not that I’m going to agree with any of them).

        1. Yet babies cannot consent either when we do things medically to them. So their logic is flawed.

  10. Seems to me that any woman who wants to donate her aborted fetus for medical research should be allowed to. Similarly, any woman who wants her “baby” given a respectful burial should be allowed to. The decision, IMO, should rest entirely with the mother, not with the doctor, the hospital, or the scientific research team—and certainly not with an “ethics advisory board.”

    1. That brings up a legal question to me…who own my replaced knee. Did I sign that away with my consent forms before surgery? I wonder if that is true before a legal abortion?

    2. To my knowledge there’s never been a law so much as proposed that would prohibit a woman from burying her aborted fetus, should she choose to do so.

      The proposed laws have all been in the other direction, requiring burial or otherwise restricting how fetal remains may be disposed of, as in the Indiana statute upheld last week by SCOTUS.

      1. To the best of your knowledge, Ken, are women routinely given a choice as to what should be done with their aborted fetuses? Is that a legal requirement as part of consent at abortion clinics or does it vary state by state?

        1. To my knowledge, Gary, it varies from state to state (and, where state law is silent, from clinic to clinic), inasmuch as there is no federal statute or constitutional provision that mandates such an option.

          States may regulate such matters, under the prevailing standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, so long as such regulations do not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion.

          For the nonce, anyway.

      2. I find that SCOTUS ruling close to incomprehensible. What did they decide in the end?
        And Justice Thomas going on (not to say ranting) about ‘eugenics’? What has that to do with the ‘disposal’ of aborted fetuses?.

        1. There were two statutory provisions at issue in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky — one restricting the disposal of fetal remains, one prohibiting abortions performed on account of a fetus’s race, sex, or disability.

          SCOTUS upheld the provision requiring burial or cremation of fetal remains, and it declined to hear the second provision regarding race, sex, and disability.

          Justice Clarence Thomas took the occasion of the Court’s punting on the second issue to go off on a 20-page obiter dictum rant regarding Margaret Sanger and the early 20th century eugenics movement. Thomas is plainly itching to overrule Roe v. Wade.

    3. People in the US can choose to donate their body to medical science – my father did that. With that being the case, it seems ridiculous to say you don’t have the same options with an aborted fetus. There is no law that says a person has to be buried or cremated; there should not be one for fetuses either.

    4. What?! Let women decide what they want to do with their own bodies & their own tissues?! Are you mad?! No, no, no, the state must decide these things (say the people who want to limit the power and reach of the state).

  11. “The decision, IMO, should rest entirely with the mother. . . .”

    I realized as soon as I posted the above that the use of “the mother” is prejudicial toward the woman who considers her fetus a baby. The more neutral designation would be “woman/mother.”

  12. Although I agree ‘a theologian’ on the panel makes no clear sense, we should not automatically assume a theologian is opposed to research using fetal tissue (natural or ‘provocatus’). As Douglas pointed out under 7.
    In fact a theologian is well placed to argue that ‘a human life’ does not start at conception. If I’m not mistaken the Scriptures make a big deal of ‘breathing’.
    IIRC there is even a passage in Numbers that mandates ‘medical abortion’, if the wife has been philandering (in it’s original meaning of a woman loving men (philo-andros)).

    1. +1! Kudos for mentioning the Numbers passage. It seems to be the Christian Nationalists’ M.O. to cite the bible and their favorite Cult Leaders’ interpretations to justify their anti-science maneuvers. They want to claim providential authority over ethical concerns because “His (The Christian god’s) Words make it clear” we Shalt Not do medical science because it says….) History will not be kind to these backward thinking zealots. They need to consider the numerous sourceS (plural) of (purpose-driven motives) over the history of manipulative translations of what they call “The One True Source” .

        1. It doesn’t actually say that. It’s worse, really. Should she fail some sort of test involving a “tenth part of an ephah of barley meal” (whatever that is), the passage calls for a priest to pray to God that the woman miscarries. Because God is a swell guy.

          It does not call for the priest to abort the baby, however.

          Here’s the relevant King James passage;

          “Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell”

          “…thy thigh to rot…” is translated as “miscarry” in other versions.

          1. Well, I dunno, The potion of bitter herbs she has to drink suspiciously sounds like an ‘abortifiant’ one.

        2. While you’re there, enjoy Numbers 22:21-39 for a donkey telling his rider to stop beating him and their ensuing conversation.

  13. “…it’s a sop to its pro-life constituency…”

    How about we get away from using their manufactured obfuscatory language, and call it like it is: “compulsory pregnancy constituency”?

    It also needs to be remembered that most abortions are caused by their god, so, by their lights, there can be nothing inherently immoral about the procedure. More hypocrisy is not surprizing, but there it is again.

    1. I call it the ‘pro-[screwing-with-other-peoples’-private]-life’ constituency. Unfortunately it’s too long to be catchy.


  14. I think, if I’m not mistaken, that this hard line evangelical stance on abortion is quite recent, I think traditionally it was the ‘quickening’ (the moment the woman feels the fetus moving) that indicated there was a new human life, and that ‘provoked abortion’ became objectionable, although there also have been traditions (very Biblical, for that matter) that were more interested in the first breath. Note there was opposition to any abortion earlier, but not so wide spread.
    The RCC was kinda ambiguous, I guess abortion was OK if one of their priests impregnated a girl child under their ‘protection’./s

    1. “maybe they can follow Washington state’s lead and compost them.”

      Many years ago some friends and I formed “The Bellingham Business Group,” whose sole purpose was to come up with ideas for starting a business in Bellingham, WA. One of our best ideas was “Mulch Your Mom”–essentially the same idea as the new Washington law. Our worst idea? The “All-You-Can-Eat Take-Out Restaurant.”

      1. Some years ago, my husband went to a “celebration of life” ceremony for a friend who died and was cremated. The gathering was in a filbert orchard owned by the deceased. Everyone had a chance to share memories. Then, ashes of the deceased were spread around one of the filbert trees. I don’t know how much better it would have been for the tree if Oregon had then had the composting option Washington now has.

        1. Hi, Rowena. We did the same thing for a good friend, Ginny Rice, who lived on the Clackamas River in Carver (now Damascus), OR—except it was a tree in an apple orchard.

          Ginny was the wife of Oregon writer Clyde Rice, who died some years earlier. When Ginny died, we formed a non-profit called The Friends of Clyde Rice and turned their property into a writers/artists/musicians retreat that is still going strong (www.clyderice.org). Can’t think of a better remembrance.

  15. On the theologian bit: can the committee use *any* clergy, or do they have to be recognized as a scholar somehow?

    (Think Reverend Jim from _Taxi_ in the former case. :))

  16. I have not recently looked in to the matter
    of .consent. in re procedural invasions

    But. In the very, very recent past, there
    has always been within many medical schools
    “the teaching” to medical students … …
    of vaginal examinations upon anesthetized
    women ( anesthetized for other procedures) withOUT their consent. I am serious here.

    Students lined up to take ‘their turn’ at her. Literally. Where was the outrage then ?!

    The UNimportance of UNconscious women:


    1. Here’s the m o s t angering part: repeated
      polls demonstrate THIS RESULT ! … …
      IF the women, when fully conscious and before
      the administration to them of any anesthesia,
      were asked IF they would consent to their
      having a vaginal examination as a teaching
      tool for students once they were unconscious,
      EVEN WITH UPWARDS of six to eight students
      AT A CLIP “learning” upon the invasion of
      the SAME woman, the majority stated that
      … … they would. They would say yes.

      In point of fact, the v a s t majority
      would give their consent IF first
      f u c k i n g asked.

      How many men and how swiftly would they rise
      up in protest in re THIS RESULT: they were
      u s e d by professors to teach students
      proctoscopic examinations ? UNconsciously
      and withOUT the men’s consent ? For decades’
      time. Invaded, that is, by mostly Us Not Males.
      In fact.

      How DARE We Not Males .n o t. be asked.


  17. At present, these United States are fucking maddening. The malfeasance of this administration is beyond reckoning.

  18. My personal intuition is that this doesn’t make a lot of sense because, as someone pointed out above, no one thinks using cadavers in med schools is going to increase the murder rate.

    That said, as an exercise in empathy, I try to mentally compare it to a thought provoking question my history teacher asked us in high school. He asked if the German government was right not to disclose data from Nazi experimentation, at least not for a long time. This question is one of the few times where I allow myself to fall back on the a-logical excuse that releasing that data “Just feels wrong.” I do try to examine my moral intuitions for consistency (after some thought I lean towards the idea that you should not push the fat man or touch the lever in the Trolley Experiment, for example,) but that is a case where I couldn’t tell you why it seems wrong, it just does. Yes, that data might help someone. No, I don’t think releasing it would somehow create a market for sick sadists to break the law in the name of experimentation, and there’s no way to undo what was already done. But I balk at the idea that we should gain more information about the temperature at which hypothermia becomes irreversible based on the documented torture of prisoners who were frozen and revived until they died. If people who are extremely opposed to abortion see it in those terms, then perhaps they feel this same intuition – there is something wrong with the idea of gaining knowledge from the horrific. I’m not even saying it’s the right intuition – both of us may be morally wrong, me in the case of the Nazi research and them in the case of abortion – but it helps me to see where they might be coming from.

  19. I did not know that “fetal tissues lack cell-surface markers found in mature tissue that induce immune system reactions in transplant recipients and lead to tissue rejection and transplant failure.” That is fascinating, and what a huge lost opportunity if this otherwise useless tissue cannot be put to that use. Illogical, defeatist.

  20. Of course, the fetus freaks – sorry, the upstanding religious faithful who consider abortion an offence against God and nature – will scrupulously refuse to utilise any medical advances that have been made using stem cell research, won’t they? I feel confident that their integrity will prevail and they will never allow themselves to take advantage of something they would deny others.

    (What, me, sarcastic?)

  21. Trump’s action regarding the use of fetal tissue is just another example, among immeasurable examples found throughout the history of Homo sapiens to date, which demonstrate that the invention of religion is, and will always be, humankinds’ greatest weapon of mass destruction.

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