Trump administration places severe restrictions on fetal tissue research, impeding medical progress

Let me make this clear from the outset: fetal tissue used for research is taken from abortions that women elect to undergo.  The tissue has shown enormous promise for medical research, including its past use in developing the polio vaccine, as well as making useful advances in AIDS research, birth defects, Down Syndrome, spinal cord injuries, organ transplants, diabetes, and many other conditions. The reason fetal tissue is used rather than, say, adult tissue from cadavers is because fetal tissue retains an ability to transform itself into various types of tissue, and also grows faster than adult tissue. Further, because fetal tissue doesn’t elicit nearly as strong an immune response as does adult tissue (you can imagine why this is the case; think pregnancy), you can create strains of mice that have a weakened immune system and also carry fetal tissue in them, facilitating experimental work. (These are known as “humanized mice” and reader Simon has an explanation below the fold about how they’re made and what they’re good for.)

Over the years, conservatives, especially religious ones, have objected to the use of fetal tissue in research because it’s seen as parts of dead babies (i.e., humans with “souls”), with some hinting darkly that allowing the work could actually promote abortions. But if that tissue can save future adult lives, and comes from dead fetuses whose tissue would be otherwise destroyed, what kind of inhumane calculus would forbid its use? Further, I can’t imagine that a single woman who wanted to have her baby would volunteer to have an abortion instead so that the fetal tissue could be used in research. That idea is insane. There is no rational objection to the use of fetal tissue in research save that its use undergoes the same kind of ethics vetting as other use of human tissue, which it already does.

But now, after more than twenty years when government-funded agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) permitted such research, the Trump administration is putting clamps on it, as reported by the article below in the Washington Post (click screenshot to read it). They add that “officials say the president made the final decision.”

The impediments to research come in the form of requiring all government-funded work on fetal tissue to be approved by a new ethics committee beyond the vetting normally used in such research. The kicker is that the committee hasn’t yet been constituted, and may not be for a long time to come. The result is that nobody is writing government grants to do work on fetal tissue. Further, every grant approved by this perhaps-to-be-constituted-someday committee must also be approved by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who has the final say. Finally, the new rules require that any research using fetal tissue document that the tissue come with an assurance from the provider that the donating woman provided informed consent, which brings up questions of privacy, both of the women and of the clinics and tissue banks who provide the material.

The ethics panel, if it actually materializes, will meet only once a year, far less often than the number of NIH deadlines.

Current NIH grants using the tissue can continue till they expire, but no future grants are being written, and research on fetal tissue within the NIH has already been halted, as have training grants that use the tissue. Private companies can continue the work, but the big majority of fetal-tissue work is funded by the government, and even for private companies the cost of using “humanized mice” without government support will be prohibitively expensive.

Some researchers are investigating replacement material, like using “deprogrammed” adult tissue, but nothing so far has proven as useful in research as the fetal tissue.

For a vigorous argument by two researchers on the value of using fetal tissue, and what progress has come from it, click on the screenshot below to read an article in Stem Cell Reports:

Again, there is no rationale—beyond the religious view that somehow fetal tissue is sacred—to support this new decision. Without the research, the fetuses would be disposed of normally, and that doesn’t mean burial. So, under pressure from the religious Right, Trump and his administration have slowed down medical research, possibly sacrificing lives that could be saved, and for no good reason. Even Francis Collins, head of the NIH and an evangelical Christian, favors the use of fetal tissue in research.

Once again we see a conflict between faith and fact, with faith impeding not just the discovery of important facts, but ones that could save lives. What kind of tradeoff are these religious crazies making?

h/t: Bat

Click “read more” if you want to learn how “humanized mice” are made.

Reader Simon Hayward explained to me how humanized mice are made, and allowed me to share his explanation with the readers (indented). Note: it’s technical.

Humanizing mice is a thing. Lots of links online to this.
There are a number of issues with [non-humanized] mice as models. One is that their immune system is not identical to humans, there are differences in details and that can be important. Another issue is that, of course, it’s not possible to do xenograft studies in immunointact mice because they reject grafts. The traditional approaches to this (nude, SCID and Rag hosts) have various issues of their own nudes are athymic (and also bald) so have no T cells but do have myeloid cells and some B cell activity, SCIDs and Rags are variations on VJD recombination incompetent mice, so they essentially have no functional lymphoid lineages and variable myeloid cells. The interactions between the lymphoid and myeloid lineages – for example the role of T cells in programming macrophages for M1/M2 lineages is also lost. No real need to get buried in the details.
One was around this is to humanize the immune system in mice. So you can take a mouse, irradiate it and then add back an immune system – in much the same way as some human leukemia patients can receive new bone marrow from donors. However, this is a big caveat, in the patients the marrow has to be matched to the recipient cell surface antigen profile (HLA plus a bunch of others) as otherwise the immune cells will reject the host. This is clearly not an option if the host is a mouse (addressing your cadaver, or indeed left over done tissue, question). If you go earlier into development the immune system is trained during development to recognize self and non-self by presentation of antigens and elimination of reactive clones in the thymus. (This is all well outside of my area of expertise so don’t go to the bank on this, but this essence is about right). So the best option is to put in an untrained immune system and let the mouse educate it. All of the lymphocytic lineages are derived from the fetal liver (they migrate to and take up residence in the bone marrow later on in development). So essentially you can take fetal liver, mash it up a bit inject it into an irradiated mouse and it will reconstitute a human immune system in the mouse. This lets you study human immune responses in cancer (for example) and examine the human immune system in ways that are not practical in living people (those darned lawyers and ethicists!) For xenografts you still have to HLA match the graft and the mouse recipient immune system, but that’s doable if you have enough money.

97 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    “ … some hinting darkly that allowing the work could actually promote abortions. “

    It seems clear to me that there’s a belief that, in Fantasyland, everything is tooled to develop into a money-making assembly line. Somehow though, fetal tissue gets extreme scrutiny, while asbestos, lead, or hexavalent chromium for example: zero concern for that or for where it ends up.

    However

    New technology allows parents to store placental and umbilical cord tissue. Why can’t that serve as a direct source of fetal tissue? I’d think there’s nothing to say there’s at least a few in there.

  2. GBJames
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    We can’t escape this tRumpian religious horror show soon enough.

    • Alexander
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Trump “will go away” soon enough, but before that he will inflict now a lot of damage to US society and the World that won’t go away for a longer time.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Methinks Trump “will go away” soon enough contradicts this: but before that he will inflict. The latter is why the former isn’t true.

        • GBJames
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          Err. Tagging failure on closing italics!

        • Alexander Hellemans
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          Yes, I shouldn’t have used the tern “enough.” In Dutch “soon enough” often means “faster than you expect”

          • Posted August 7, 2020 at 3:23 am | Permalink

            It also depends on what you mean by “soon”. If he wins a second term, from the perspective of one hundred years hence, it will be “soon”, but from right now, it feels like eternity.

            And just so you know, Trump’s polling has picked up by a percentage point in the last week and Biden has gone from +9.5 a month ago to +7.6 yesterday. On that trend, Trump is going to be within five points when the election happens and with a little help from the Electoral College and voter suppression, I am beginning to think he is going to win.

            https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/national/

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

              “Trump’s polling has picked up by a percentage point in the last week”

              How? Just…how? I mean…HOW??

              • GBJames
                Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

                That could easily be statistical wobble. Sampling error.

                Or maybe a lot of people are into the whole Yo Semite thing? 😉

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:32 am | Permalink

                That’s what they call Yo Sushi in Israel. Maybe.

                Really though I’m more intrigued by his push to ‘ban Tik-Tok’, especially since he has admitted on camera that doesn’t know what Tik Tok is.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Can yous wipe out this theocracy cancer in the US swiftly after you vote out Trump?

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Some things like this ban can be reversed immediately, as with any of Trump’s other executive orders. Just like Trump did with Obama. But the theocracy part is trickier since Trump has stacked the courts with anti-science, pro-religious hacks that can enact theocratic laws. Another reason winning the Senate this year is as important (if not more so) than ridding the world of Trump.

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

          I should have written that “Trump/McConnell has stacked the courts…”

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I am sure this action surprises no one – the anti-science moron is throwing everything against the wall for the next three months. He is trying to run Kanye West on the ballot in many states, attempting to destroy the mail system, AG Barr will be releasing more crap about his phony investigations and of course delay the election. And this is just the start for the next three months. His secretary of failure, son in law, is busy on these things.

  4. Teresa Carson
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    How many abortions has Trump paid for? He’s just pandering for votes and knows nothing about fetal tissue, where it comes from and what it’s used for — and he doesn’t care to know.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      There have been rumors that Trump paid for the abortions of women with whom he’d had liaisons resulting in pregnancy (including at least one former employee at Trump Tower), but as far as I know none of these rumors has yet been substantiated.

      More important, I think, is that Trump was in favor of legal abortion (including abortions performed during the third trimester) before he was agin ’em — which is to say, before he decided to run for office as a member of a political party for which abortion is the third rail of American politics (you touch it, you die).

      • rickflick
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Actually, I think, early on in his career he was left-leaning and befriended Democrats. I saw a clip years ago where he said if he ran for president it would be as a Republican because they are a lot dumber.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

          Not sure Trump could ever have been said to be “left-leaning,” or to have had any ideologically coherent commitments for that matter. His approach to politics in those days was essentially a throwback to the days of Tammany Hall — spread campaign donations around so as to keep something “on account” at the “favor bank” for when he needed a politician’s assistance in advancing his business interests.

          For that matter, Trump still has no ideologically coherent approach to politics. He’s inherently inclined to authoritarianism as a matter of personality type, but much of what he espouses is a betrayal of traditional conservatism. He ran for president as ego-gratification and self-aggrandizement, and because he thought it would promote his personal business interests, not because he has some grand policy vision for the United States.

          Trump has adopted right-wing positions on kulturkampf issues like abortion and guns and religious freedom not because he has a personal commitment to any of these positions, but because he accurately sussed out that that’s what’s required to run under today’s Republican brand. Politics is merely the particular hustle the Donald is up to these days.

          • rickflick
            Posted August 6, 2020 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

            That fits him like a glove.

        • Posted August 7, 2020 at 3:30 am | Permalink

          I don’t think you did. The quote is fake.

          https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/1998-trump-people-quote/

          • rickflick
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

            It fits though doesn’t it?
            Snopes only checked the archives of People magazine. My recollection was it was on camera during a TV interview. But, it may be a false memory on my part. Time will do that.

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Suspect this is coming now to try to make it a campaign issue. I can’t imagine that anyone not already irrevocably committed to O6 would be swayed by it, and a vigorous defense of the status quo might actually lose him votes.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    But if that tissue can save future adult lives, and comes from dead fetuses whose tissue would be otherwise destroyed, what kind of inhumane calculus would forbid its use?

    Even a staunch abortion opponent like George W. Bush understood this. Sort of, anyway, since he split the Solomonic baby (so to speak) on the question by authorizing the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research so long as the stem cells at issue had come from embryos frozen (but never used) for in vitro fertilization rather than from abortions.

    As I recall, this was a decision he spent some time agonizing over, which was unusual for Dubya, given that his what-me-worry attitude didn’t lend itself to profound philosophical introspection.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      Somehow I doubt W. actually agonized over this issue. Delay was probably just some lobbying and jostling that had to be done in the background to assuage God-awful religious interests to get on board with the compromise. Just a guess.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        My assertion in this regard is based solely on people within W.’s orbit (both personal and political) having contemporaneously reported that he’d been engaging with them on the issue in a manner that was not his norm.

        As though the reasoning required to work one’s way through such moral and ethical issues was a tool Dubya was unaccustomed to using.

      • Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        I suspect he did agonize over it. W has impressed me pretty well since he left office.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          I did not follow his involvement in any way, so you may well be right. I only saw him as a kind of jerk who wanted to be president because his father had been. A frat boy. He may be deeper than that. Hard to see it in his speech and manner though.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          Compared to what’s in office now, Dubya comes across as cut from the same statesman cloth as a Disraeli or a Gladstone.

        • Posted August 7, 2020 at 3:40 am | Permalink

          When W came to power my first thought was “wow, I thought Ronald Reagan was bad enough. This is really scraping the bottom of the barrel”.

          Turns out they broke the bottom of the barrel with all the scraping and it was located above a manhole giving access to a sewer.

          George W Bush seems pretty presidential now but that’s because although he wasn’t high on the scale of good presidential material, he was on the scale. Ted Striker had PTSD and a drinking problem but if both pilots on your flight ate the fish, you’d take him over me to fly the plane any day.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

            Heh. I think you win today’s prize for best metaphor usage!

  7. bill
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    some of us have difficulty with exempting any human individuals from basic human rights, separate from religious considerations. for those who recognize a human individual is formed at conception, elective abortion itself poses ethical problems, and any benefit derived from that runs into the same problems of benefit from other unethical procedures. the ethics of research done on prisoners without their consent poses similar concerns.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      A prisoner is a breathing, living human being to some of us. We did not have to go to religious class to learn that one.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      I recognize that some people adopt this position on secular grounds. But absent ensoulment (a belief in which drives most abortion opposition), there doesn’t appear to be a particularly compelling case for claiming a fertilized ovum is ontologically equivalent to an extant human being. After all, many such zygotes never achieve implantation in a woman’s uterus (and, of those that do, many are discharged with the woman’s next menses).

      Certainly, the United States constitution does not recognize fetuses as “persons” for purposes of any of the rights enumerated therein (such as due process or equal protection).

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        The only line of reasoning I could see as supportive of their position of not using fetuses is if you are opposed to abortion for whatever reason, using fetal material would be unethical as those who benefit from the research would be benefiting from an unethical first cause…..and therefore tacitly accepting that abortion is okay.

        Of course, I think this is bonkers because I don’t have issues with abortion….I also think that it’s not just the religious and ensoulment is the issue but our society’s fetishization of children.

        • Posted August 7, 2020 at 3:51 am | Permalink

          I know that’s the reasoning they use, but it’s flawed. If the foetus has been aborted, the tissue is going to be thrown away. The “evil deed” has been done so you might as well use the tissue for something good.

          I’m completely opposed to capital punishment but, if the USA introduced a law that said that the convict’s organs must be donated for transplants or their body must go to medical research, I would not be arguing against it on the grounds that capital punishment is wrong.

          • bill
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            the u.n. human rights council demurs, seeing organ harvesting of prisoners as unethical on its own. even obtaining consent from condemned prisoners is seen as exploiting a vulnerable population and unethical. the reasons range from basic human rights to the likelihood of corruption of the justice process by the need for organs. the lack of unbiased justice systems, particularly about race and the death penalty in our country add injustice in application to the more basic criticisms.

            • Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:01 am | Permalink

              But none of the reasons are “because capital punishment is wrong”.

              • GBJames
                Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

                They are reasons that capital punishment is wrong, no?

            • GBJames
              Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:03 am | Permalink

              Is that you Archy?

            • rickflick
              Posted August 7, 2020 at 11:04 am | Permalink

              “…organ harvesting of prisoners.”
              Sounds like a basis of a good sci-fi.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

            I think that is inconsistent with ethics in research now though – if you conduct experiments that are unethical (think of Mengela) is it ethical for people to reap the benefits of that research. Some say no – it should be destroyed.

            • Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

              I would say it depends on who you mean by “you”. If you conduct unethical research, you should reap the consequences e.g. prison. However, I really don’t think that any valuable results that come out of it should be ignored by other people.

              Let’s say, for example, I conducted research in which I deliberately infected people with coronavirus without their knowledge or consent. I should go to prison for that, but, if one of the consequences was that I discovered a treatment that reduced the mortality rate to zero, are you really going to ignore my discovery and pretend it didn’t happen?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

                I’m not arguing whether it’s right to accept unethical research and the benefits it reaps. What I’m arguing is this is a valid line of reasoning worthy of discussion and worthy of ethical consideration. I don’t think it’s necessarily an unreasonable line of reason the people opposed to this research are using as it is consistent. I do think they are wrong but they aren’t unreasonably so.

              • Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

                I think we are in violent agreement. I did not mean to give the impression that it is unreasonable i.e. I think they are idiots or anything like that. I actually described the line of reasoning as “flawed” not unreasonable.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

                Violent agreement it is!

      • Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • bill
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        i’m not sure why natural demise of some individuals at any stage of development cuts the link between the earliest expressions of human individuality from more developed individuals.

        as a secular humanist, i see experience as paramount. and i may have a more holistic view than some, as i think

        individuality begins at conception, and is defined by genetics. development begins immediately and continues in incremental, overlapping stages till death, at least.

        i don’t have a problem with using fetal tissue itself. elective abortus tissue poses the problem.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

          You’re using “individuality” and “experience” (and “holistic”) as ill-defined (and seemingly quasi-religious) buzzwords.

          But if that’s what you actually believe, then shouldn’t society be devoting massive amounts of medical research (and be legally requiring women to submit their tampons for zygote harvesting) to forestall the enormous number of “individuals” now being denied their opportunity to acquire “experience” due to so-called spontaneous abortions? Isn’t that what the logic of your “holistic” approach would indicate, given that the number of individuals lost this way far exceeds the number lost to medically induced abortions?

          (If not, then you would seem to be substituting the naturalistic fallacy for the religious believer’s assertion that “that’s just the way the Good Lord works.”)

          • ritaprangle
            Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

            Thank you, Ken.

          • bill
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:24 am | Permalink

            i define human individual via unique genetics, with epigenitic considerations for twins/etc.

            life began long ago; new individuals are created at conception.

            experience here means interaction with one’s environment

            i use holistic in the philosophical sense:
            ‘characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.’

            i’m not religious.

            as to the tampon thing, i think most products of conception lost at this stage have significant structural problems. but i do support research into reducing miscarriages.

            equating a non-intentional process with intent, such as equating miscarriages with elective abortions requires ignoring the roll of the moral agent in the second.

            “there doesn’t appear to be a particularly compelling case for claiming a fertilized ovum is ontologically equivalent to an extant human being…”

            not sure how you’re using ‘ontologically’; as the ultimate definition of a human is the information contained in our genes provides that these are the same beings, at different stages of development. maybe you could define ‘extant human being’ as well.

          • bill
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            perhaps i should supply all aspects of my position prior to using ‘recognize’ to show my opinion, in all online comments. but i think this is pedantic, semantic sophistry.

            you are correct in your assumption that i regard genetic information as the essence of the definition of both human, and a human individual. i think it is established so in the scientific community.

            i don’t think a child’s right ever takes precedence over any parent’s rights, or vice versa; this is a straw man. i do think that some rights are more fundamental than others, and that society consists of limiting rights as mills shows.

            perhaps you took ‘a modest proposal’ seriously?

            we apparently differ on basic civics; my constitution enumerates rights, but doesn’t grant or confer them.

            i’m more interested in the validity of arguments than their popularity.

            you challenged me on why there was an ontological link between you prior to your birth, and you after your birth.

            there is only one. the molecules in your body will turn over; your cells will turn over; your organs will be slowly replaced; your memories will be altered with each use. what was the essence of you at the beginning will be the essence at the end, the information coded in your genes.

            perhaps you can explain why you then is not ontologically equivalent to you now. it seems to me a continuum.

            • GBJames
              Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

              “i regard genetic information as the essence of the definition of both human, and a human individual.”

              Two questions.

              Do you grieve for all the humanity that washes down the drain when you shower?

              Should we take a collection to purchase a keyboard with a shift key for you? (I jest, but it does make it harder to parse your paragraphs.)

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:13 am | Permalink

          It isn’t the natural demise of ‘some’ ‘individuals’ at this stage, it is the vast majority of them.

          That certainly reduces any claim of it being a special time. A time so precious and valuable that even a god or nature takes special care. Nope, nothing special at all.

          As for individual, just how individual are monozygotic twins, especially at that stage?

          But even giving some notion to individuality and experience, so what?

          What claim can you make about human zygotes and individuality that you can not make for a vast array of other entities. Other animals zygotes for a start.

          Unless you are claiming some kind of human centered unique existential supremacy, such that the mere presence of a few ‘human’ cells trumps the value of any other being, a similar sentiment to the absurd notion of ensoulment, then this individual argument doesn’t carry much weight.

          But, the real issue here is the intrinsic value of a zygote in comparison to a ‘real’ human being.

          And zygotes and embryo’s don’t have qualities we regard as human. That they ‘may’ become such an entity does not change the fact that at that time they are not and to put the well being of such an entity, an entity that can have no idea of suffering nor even the ability to suffer, in human terms, over a being who can suffer in all the ways we know, is ridiculous.

          Your initial point is interesting in a way as we don’t devalue human life just because some of us do die.
          But, I wonder how we would think if two thirds of people all around us died, regularly, like fertilized eggs do.

          Women have suffered and died by the thousands and probably millions due to complications in pregnancy and child birth. Actually there is sufferings without complications.
          Women who know very well what suffering is and what dying is.
          Zygotes and embryo’s do not and can not have such ‘experiences’.

          Anyone forcing women to undergo unwanted pregnancies is guilty of crimes against humanity in my view.

          • bill
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            ‘As for individual, just how individual are monozygotic twins, especially at that stage?’

            we think that even monozygotic twins, while extremely similar, have epigenetic differences which are distinguishable almost immediately.

            if you don’t define human individuals by genetics, how then? by their abilities?

            i can’t address your animal zygote thing, i don’t understand that logic.

            one can appreciate the tragedy of an unwanted pregnancy while at the same time recognizing the tragedy of an early demise.

            freeing slaves negatively impacted slaveowners; but the human rights of the slaves were more fundamental than the harm caused to other parties.

      • savage
        Posted August 7, 2020 at 3:53 am | Permalink

        A more interesting argument is that no hard line can be drawn between late abortions and infanticide. Peter Singer thus concluded that the latter should be permitted in some circumstances.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

          Though the point is often moot as late stage abortions are dangerous and therefore rarely done. Usually if they are it’s because of some extraneous circumstance not because the woman had a whimsical change of heart about having kids (never happens). In Canada, there is no limit to when you can have an abortion. That decision is between the doctor and the patient….indeed they are so dangerous that women often have to continue to carry a dead baby to term…pretty horrific and traumatizing to the woman.

          • rickflick
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for shedding some sober light on the issue.
            So much you hear is pure excitement.

        • bill
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

          it’s easier to draw a line between late-term abortion and infanticide than it is late-term abortion and other stage elective abortion; parturition provides a marker more obvious than ‘quickening’, ‘viability’ cannot be ascertained for individuals and is a target which will move to day 0 eventually, etc.

          but any such line is arbitrary relative to the investiture of rights; one point on a developmental continuum.

          i might agree with pinker, since i support therapeutic abortion, and support elective euthanasia. i’ve seen some tragic developmental mistakes in my career which had no ‘quality of life’ at all; some only seem to suffer.

          key to this is having objective input into these decisions, especially with parental/guardian consent vs personal advanced directive. much like with the elderly, allowing those with personal interests to control this process means one individual’s rights may be subsumed by the interests of another individual.

    • GBJames
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      “…for those who recognize…”

      These words carry too much freight. First of all, “recognize” assumes something that can’t be assumed. You might replace it with “think” and you’d be making a more honest case. Beyond that, of course, many of us do not recognize/assume/think that this is the case. You’re welcome to your opinion but you are not welcome to think you have a better one than I do. This is a decision that belongs with the people who live with the fact of unwanted pregnancy. Period.

      • Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Nail hit on head.

    • eric
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      The fact that most of that “some of us” don’t lift a finger to oppose IVF and fertility centers – who create and then dispose of ~10 fertilized embryos for each successful pregnancy – tells me that “some of us” are much more concerned about controlling women’s choices than preventing fertilized embryos from being killed.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Excellent point

        In fact I wonder if parents can’t request the material be donated for research. Perhaps unviable or uncertain embryos are not reliable.

        • eric
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          That would be a good thing to look into. FYI, AIUI the clinics’ destroying fertilized embryos has nothing to do with their nonviability or any problem with them. To take eggs out of a woman is an invasive and expensive surgery, so when they do it, they grab a bunch. They fertilize all of them to check for viability, then implant one or a few, and keep the others as “extras” in case the first attempt fails – that way, they don’t have to do surgery again. Using this sort of “batch” method is an obvious way to reduce the health risks to the woman and it lowers costs. So the zygotes could be (and most probably are) perfectly normal, viable, fertilized embryos. The reason they’re destroyed isn’t because there’s anything wrong with them, but because once the woman gets successfully pregnant, there’s no use for them any more.

          Folk like Bill should, if they were consistent, loudly protest and object to such destruction. But they rarely do. Saxby Chambliss pretty much revealed the game after he shepherded through the most restrictive abortion bill in current times; when asked why his legislation didn’t do anything to restrict IVF zygotes, he replied “because they’re not in a woman.” That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? It’s the woman they want to regulate, not the zygote.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted August 6, 2020 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

            “ … once the woman gets successfully pregnant, there’s no use for them any more.“

            Someone should be defending the right of the parents to choose as many embryos as they like – because what’s keeping any politicians from enforcing the mother to implant every embryo?

            • eric
              Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

              I don’t think there’s any law against it, and AFAIK some women do indeed opt to have more than one embryo implanted, leading to a higher likelihood of fraternal twins. Unexpectedly, the odds of identical twins are also higher in IVF.

              Or were you being sarcastic and suggesting pro-lifers might opt to criminalize not implanting all of them? A few years ago, I would’ve said that sort of idea would make a good Onion story or Monty Python sketch. Now, it’s more of a Poe.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted August 7, 2020 at 6:49 am | Permalink

                I was serious with a sarcastic frosting – as we see regularly, real life can be indistinguishable from satire.

          • bill
            Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

            i don’t ‘loudly protest and object’ to elective abortion, so am consistent in my approach. but this is a ‘no true scotsman’ fallacy. my response to the issue stands separate from the merits of my position.

            i see these (elective abortion vs ivf discards) as apples an oranges, or at least oranges vs tangerines. i think ivf will be improved when it more accurately mirrors the human process and has 50% discards, rather than the 60-90% we discard now; and even better when there are no discards. and i think we should research miscarriages with an eye to reducing them, as well. where we can do better than nature, we should.

  8. George Atkinson
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Next step: criminalize any use of the HeLa cell line, perhaps because it keeps Henrietta alive.

  9. Linda Calhoun
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Religion makes you stupid. And mean.

    L

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Dunno that I’d go that far, but it sure isn’t likely to improve a person in either regard.

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        I stand by what I said.

        Think about it: If you have all the answers, there’s no need to learn anything because you already know it all, right?

        And I am convinced that Christianity ,especially, attracts mean people, or maybe even produces mean people. The “suffering is good for you” crowd, I think, are actually people who enjoy watching other people hurt, or maybe even hurting them themselves. That’s not a very pleasant thing to have to face about yourself. But, if you can say that it’s actually love, that you want to see people suffer so that they will come to Jebus and have eternal life, well then, that’s really positive, not negative.

        Convoluted bullshit, but there it is.

        L

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          Religion makes more sense as a disease, with its hapless victims unable to resist. As such it’s more tractable as a problem, rather than viewing the individual victims as “stupid”, or other things. Because it’s not their fault.

          This is the view I learned about from a T-shirt Richard Dawkins was wearing once, which read SOMETHING CLOSE TO “religion is a disease. Together we can find the cure.”. I’m not confident it’s exact.

          • Linda Calhoun
            Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

            Maybe.

            The problem I have with that attitude is that it’s too easy to say to THEIR victims, “Suck it up; they can’t help it.”

            If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of their cruelty and their stupidity, maybe you might have a harder time accepting that.

            Twice in my life I’ve been attacked by them to the point where I had to get a lawyer to defend myself. Both times I came out on top because their accusations had no basis, but after those experiences, plus numerous other ones that were not as egregious but still annoying as hell, I am not inclined to cut the f-ers any slack.

            L

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

              An important way that religion works is indoctrination of children. The reason this works is, generally, children – though very smart – do not know enough to understand everything they encounter. Legally, and generally, they are protected.

              As such, establishing firm positions or views on an adult victims of religion has to account for this mechanism. Certainly, an adult can be held accountable for their actions as adults, including those which religion is using to ensure it’s growth. However, religion is a particularly severe problem because of the indoctrination of children by adults, such that, once established in a child, the child grows to an adult carrying this disease into an age where they, ostensibly, should be treated with the full force of expectations for adults.

              [ it takes me a while to think things over sometimes ]

  10. rickflick
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    It occurs to me that tRumps rational is often about making scientists and other rational people angry. That greatly pleases his peanut gallery. This may apply here, especially inside the hollow chambers of DT’s skull.

  11. eric
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    So, basically, they’re killing it via bottleneck, similar to the current pro-life strategy for eliminating abortion services. There’s no other explanation, as IMO there is no rational justification for creating a process that requires a single group meeting once a year + HHS Secretary’s signature for approval for an entire large subsection of research.

    Current NIH grants using the tissue can continue till they expire, but no future grants are being written…

    One small bit of light is that we are almost certainly going to have a continuing resolution this year (at least, outside of DoD and maybe DHS). Which means all ongoing research will be allowed to continue at the same funding level through September 2021. Which, if we are lucky, gives the Biden administration plenty of time to throw this policy out before it causes a halt in ongoing work.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      While the policy change may become ineffectual, it really designed to gin up support among the blessed followers of the only path to God. For that, all he needs is a show of intention.

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Did you hear him in Ohio today saying Biden is going to “Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy.”?

        The desperation is unnerving. What’s next, calls to have him executed?

        • rickflick
          Posted August 6, 2020 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I can see tRump going to, “Lock him up!” before November.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          He also said that if Biden’s elected that means “no more windows”, and that the democrats will “get rid of the suburbs”.

          I so dearly wish he was fictional so I could enjoy him comedically.

  12. Mark R.
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    So can they use fetal tissue from miscarriages? I guess that goes back to the question as to whether a woman could give consent to side-step this particular ban. As with most things political right now, it can only get better once Trump, his sycophants and the GOP lose power. Stop the insanity people, vote them all out!

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      Miscarriages don’t happen under, predictable, controlled and surgically clean conditions. So tissue collection is not really practical. This is another layer on top of existing regulations for local IRB approval, informed consent, HIPPA compliance, and an assurance that no money is changing hands (there are formal regulations to prevent you paying someone to get pregnant and then abort the pregnancy). It’s a solution searching for a problem. As you say, voting is the best cure here.

      https://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/nihgps/html5/section_4/4.1.14_human_fetal_tissue_research.htm

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Got it, thanks for the information Simon.

  13. Laurance
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Check out the Satanic Temple!

    https://announcement.thesatanictemple.com/rrr-campaign41280784?_ke=eyJrbF9lbWFpbCI6ICJsYXVyYW5jZUBqdW5vLmNvbSIsICJrbF9jb21wYW55X2lkIjogIlZMRXhQOSJ9&utm_campaign=rrr_announcement_missed&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter

    So they’re using religion to fight religion and make abortion legal, by golly! I think I’ll write to them and call attention to this Frump nonsense. Maybe they’ll want to address this situation.

  14. bill
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    ‘recognize’, as in

    ‘acknowledge the existence, validity, or legality of.’

    not so much all that other stuff, but ‘think’ is fine

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      The problem with the terminology “recognize” is that it assumes (without demonstrating) the validity of the matter asserted — which is to say, it “begs the question,” a logical fallacy that more generally plagues your entire argument.

      You beg the question, for example, regarding why fertilized ovums are imbued with the quality you’ve labelled “human individuality.” (I assume that it is because such cells include genetic material that is recognizably human.)

      But even assuming the validity of that premise, you still have most of your work ahead of you, since your argument begs the fundamental question why the rights of a fertilized ovum, or of a clump of undifferentiated cells embedded in a woman’s uteru that’s developed from it, should take precedence over the rights of the individual whose womb is hosting it — which is to say, of a post-menarche woman, an individual who is self-evidently entitled to the full panoply of rights, privileges, and immunities conferred by the US constitution. Nor does it answer why the rights of a fetus should take precedence over the rights of all the extant human beings who may benefit from the (perhaps life-saving) medical treatments that may be developed as a result of embryonic stem-cell research.

      Have you ever considered why it is that most other secular humanists are not in accord with the position regarding abortion you’ve set forth above?

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:18 am | Permalink

        Yep, what he said, Ken that is.

  15. jezgrove
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Trump and Pence are us issues like this to rally the base: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/06/mike-pence-supreme-court-disappointment-justice-john-roberts

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 6, 2020 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      D’oh – “are using”. Not that the GOP is getting desperate…

      • rickflick
        Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        I’m sure they are getting desperate. Look for a lot more of this, and worse, in the next months.

  16. Posted August 6, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Oil and water.
    Trump and science.
    Properties of the former at the very least,
    “know” what there doing.


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