The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has taken a new step in the fight against abortion, announcing the end of research with tissues from aborted fetuses in federal (NIH, National Institutes of Health) laboratories. While this does not mean that this type of research will not be carried out in the U.S., it is a measure that will reduce the number of research lines in this field. Various states are also legislating against the use of fetal tissues in research. Read our recent statement on the impact in biomedical research.
As a result of these provisions, several scientists have spoken up against such measures, arguing that research with aborted fetal tissues has great biomedical importance (see more HERE), such as in the development of vaccines against the Zika virus and AIDS, although the Trump administration counters that there are alternatives for these purposes. Apart from this, fetal tissue is also currently being used in human development studies.
From an ethical point of view, if fetal tissue research and induced abortion are considered separately, they cannot be attributed equivalent moral judgments, since in the first case, the intentionality is to produce knowledge and biomedical advances, while in the second case, the intention and the act are to end a human life.
Nevertheless, it is not easy to consider the two cases separately. Certainly, when considering these research lines as long-term research projects, based on available resources (which include fetal material), induced abortion is implicitly assumed as a licit and formally established reality. Therefore, from a position that defends human life and dignity from conception, it makes no sense to propose this research, as the means needed to carry it out are wrongful, so that the new decision by the U.S. government is consistent with the defense of human life. It is worth mentioning the different moral assessment between the proposal and development of this research with the use of medical means that have already been obtained using these methods, as is the case of some vaccines.