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NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research

NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially rescinded the ban on using fetal tissues in research on Friday, reversing a Trump-era policy instituted almost two years ago.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Overnight Defense: Administration approves 5M arms sale to Israel | Biden backs ceasefire in call with Netanyahu | Military sexual assault reform push reaches turning point CDC mask update sparks confusion, opposition MORE’s NIH released a notice saying that the agency was overturning the Trump administration’s policy that required all applicants for NIH grants involving fetal tissue from elective abortions to be reviewed by an ethics board. 

The notice also said the Department of Health and Human Services and NIH will no longer assemble an NIH Human Fetal Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board. 

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“NIH reminds the community of expectations to obtain informed consent from the donor for any NIH-funded research using human fetal tissue … and of continued obligations to conduct such research only in accord with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations, including prohibitions on the payment of valuable consideration for such tissue,” the notice reads. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraMcDonald's teams up with HHS on pro-vaccination campaign Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections MORE hinted at an announcement on the NIH’s fetal tissue policy was upcoming during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Thursday. 

Later in the hearing, Rep. Ben ClineBenjamin (Ben) Lee ClineGOP votes to dump Cheney from leadership Virginia GOP set for wild, unpredictable convention Garland emphasizes national security, civil rights in budget hearing MORE (R-Va.) said, “I hope you're going to continue the Trump administration policy and that's going to be your announcement tomorrow.”

Reps. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneDemocrats renew push for permanent child credit expansion Democrats signal House bill to go further than Biden proposal on child tax credit Democratic scramble complicates Biden's human infrastructure plan MORE (D-Wash.), Mark PocanMark William PocanProgressives divided over efforts to repeal SALT cap Left feels empowered after Biden backtracks on refugees NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research MORE (D-Wis.), and Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyBattle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers Overnight Health Care: Biden sets goal of at least one shot to 70 percent of adults by July 4 | White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states Pressure builds for Biden to back vaccine patent waivers MORE (D-Ill.), who led a group of 26 Democratic House members calling for an end to the restriction on research involving fetal tissue, praised Friday’s announcement. 

“We applaud the Biden administration and Secretary Xavier Becerra for prioritizing science and reversing the Trump administration’s arbitrary barriers to both extramural and intramural researchers on the use of fetal tissue in scientific research,” the lawmakers said.

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“During a time when our country necessitates recovery that prioritizes science over politics, this is an integral step towards protecting the advancements of our scientific community,” they added. 

In the lawmakers’ letter to Becerra earlier this week, they cited that fetal tissue has been used in research to treat and study hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, Zika, HIV, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and COVID-19. Scientists also used fetal tissue in developing the first polio and measles vaccines.

Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, issued a statement calling it "very disappointing" that the administration has decided to "fund research that requires aborted fetal tissue and organs."

"This type of experimental research is a gross violation of human dignity and is not where the majority of Americans want their tax dollars being spent," McClusky said. "The government has no business creating a marketplace for aborted baby body parts.”

In 2018, anti-abortion organizations mounted pressure on then-President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP-led Maricopa County board decries election recount a 'sham' Analysis: Arpaio immigration patrol lawsuit to cost Arizona county at least 2 million Conservatives launch 'anti-cancel culture' advocacy organization MORE to stop permitting federal funding to go to research projects using fetal tissue from elective abortions. 

Trump revealed his policy in June 2019, prompting the Democratic-led House to vote to block the ban that same month. But with the Republican-majority Senate, that vote did not go anywhere. 

—Updated 4:17 p.m.