Anti-abortion groups call on NIH chief to resign in fight over fetal tissue

Two prominent anti-abortion groups, March for Life and Live Action, separately called on National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins to step down Tuesday after he defended the agency’s funding of fetal tissue research.

“Collins’ actions are inconsistent with the pro-life policies of this administration and with the consensus of Americans who oppose entangling taxpayer dollars with abortion. It is time for his departure,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement.

"Director Collins must be replaced with someone who recognizes that children who are killed by abortion should be mourned, not experimented on,” Live Action President Lisa Rose said in her group's statement.

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Collins angered anti-abortion groups last week when he said fetal tissue would “continue to be the mainstay” for research.

“There is strong evidence that scientific benefits come from fetal tissue research, [which] can be done with [an] ethical framework,” he said, according to Science Magazine.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is conducting a review of more than $100 million in federal funding of these projects and is expected to reach a decision in the coming months.

HHS canceled a contract with a fetal tissue firm in September after facing pressure from anti-abortion groups, and said it would review remaining contracts.

HHS has solicited feedback from scientists, anti-abortion groups and other stakeholders over the past few months.

Caitlin B. Oakley, the national spokesperson for HHS, told The Hill that the department was conducting an audit into its use of fetal tissue in its research. Oakley said that no decision has been made yet in regards to changing its policies, and that Collins's comments "should be seen as pre-judging the outcome of the review."