Editor's Note: This piece was coauthored by Tara Sander Lee.
Someone once said, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste,” and scientists longing to push aside key ethical boundaries took it to heart. A recent Washington Post article claims possible treatments for coronavirus will not be discovered without using body parts harvested from abortions, and that ethical considerations are blocking potential drugs that could “save hundreds of thousands of lives.”
This is not the first time the doomsayers have been exposed for making false and contemptible statements to justify their questionable experiments. But like so many before it, the latest claim is specious. The coronavirus pandemic provides a convenient opportunity to play on people’s fears. It’s dishonest and wrong.
Experimentation involving aborted babies’ body parts is controversial for a reason: it is unethical, antiquated science – and it’s totally unnecessary. There is no need whatsoever for its use in development of protections or treatments for the coronavirus or any other disease. Instead of squandering precious taxpayer dollars, we should be optimizing the wide array of modern, successful alternatives we already have.
A host of ethical alternatives are available now, and many more are in development thanks to NIH directing additional funding to new areas of research. For coronavirus in particular, there are over 60 potential treatments under investigation. Making the conscientious decision not to exploit aborted children’s bodies won’t stop us from fighting coronavirus. Indeed, there is no lack of swift progress with ethical alternatives, including some that have already started clinical trials.
One potential treatment for coronavirus involves the use of a humanized mouse (that is, a mouse with a humanized immune system), but it does not use any aborted baby parts. This modern version, the VelocImmune mouse, is genetically engineered to produce human antibodies for therapeutic use including arthritis and potential treatment for coronavirus infection.
Repurposing an already-approved drug also shows promise in treating coronavirus. A drug widely used for malaria is moving particularly fast through the research, development, and clinical trial process, when used alone or in combination with other drugs.
Adult stem cells – which are derived from ethical sources present in the body, not from destroyed embryos – are also delivering results. One type of human adult stem cell has been shown to generate new lung tissue and heal damaged lungs. In fact, the researchers noted that this adult stem cell type is essential to repairing lung tissue damaged by severe influenza and other respiratory ailments. Another adult stem cell type has already been deployed in China and is improving health outcomes for patients with coronavirus-associated pneumonia.
With so many other successful alternatives available to researchers, pushing experimentation with aborted baby body parts at a time like this, when many people worldwide already feel vulnerable, is petty and ludicrous. The Trump administration’s new policy toward these experiments rightly puts ethics first in considering taxpayer-funded grants to researchers who want to use body parts from elective abortions. HHS has recently received nominations for an Ethics Board to carefully examine the ethics of these research proposals. Between the coronavirus and the administration’s action, the timing of complaints from scientists who want to keep tax dollars flowing to their grisly projects is as unsurprising as it is inappropriate.
These objectors always fail to mention that their experiments don’t just require the intentional and deliberate destruction of human life to get the body parts they so covet – they incentivize it. Often the baby who’s sacrificed can feel pain. Some might even survive outside the womb. This argument gets to the heart of what is right and what is wrong and what should and should not be allowed in the name of science. The fact is, the use of aborted baby body parts for research is never justified or necessary.
David Prentice, Ph.D. is Vice President and Research Director for the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Tara Sander Lee, Ph.D. is Senior Fellow and Director of Life Sciences for the Charlotte Lozier Institute.