Trump administration terminates contract with fetal tissue firm after opposition from anti-abortion groups

Trump administration terminates contract with fetal tissue firm after opposition from anti-abortion groups
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The Trump administration has ended a contract with a fetal tissue firm after receiving blowback from anti-abortion groups and Republican lawmakers.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) canceled the $16,000 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources because it was not "sufficiently assured" that the contract included appropriate protections and followed requirements for fetal tissue research, the agency said in a statement Monday evening. 

HHS is also conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to "ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations," the statement says. 

The agency also said it would continue reviewing alternatives to human fetal tissue in HHS funded research "and will ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated."

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“In addition, HHS has initiated a comprehensive review of all research involving fetal tissue to ensure consistency with statutes and regulations governing such research, and to ensure the adequacy of procedures and oversight of this research in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.”

The Food and Drug Administration, which is under HHS, contracted with Advanced Bioscience Resources in July to acquire fetal tissue to implant into mice for research purposes. 

Republicans on Capitol Hill criticized the decision in a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, writing that "unborn children are not commodities to be bought and sold." 

"The practice of conducting research using the body parts of children whose lives have been violently ended by abortion is abhorrent," reads the Sept. 17 letter, signed by 85 House members. 

"We urge you to cancel this contract immediately and utilize alternative, modern scientific techniques that do not contribute to the trafficking in baby body parts." 

Anti-abortion groups expressed shock and frustration that a "pro-life" administration would use federal funds on fetal tissue. 

"We expect far better of our federal agencies – especially under the leadership of a courageous pro-life president – entrusted with the health of American citizens," wrote 48 groups, led by the Susan B. Anthony List, in a statement earlier this month.

However, supporters of fetal tissue research note that it's led to the development of medical advances, including the polio vaccine.