"This notice informs the extramural research community that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is reversing its 2019 decision that all research applications for NIH grants and contracts proposing the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions will be reviewed by an Ethics Advisory Board," the NIH notice stated.
An NIH spokesperson confirmed that the board will not convene again and intramural NIH research involving fetal tissue can resume. (Related: New video: Planned Parenthood officers admit under oath to using partial-birth abortion to harvest baby parts to sell.)
In disbanding the ethics board, the HHS essentially overturned a policy put in place under former President Donald Trump. That policy halted all internal NIH research using aborted fetal tissue and severely restricted outside fetal tissue research funded by taxpayers.
Some Trump-era requirements governing grant applications for fetal tissue research aren't affected by the new announcement. For example, investigators still need to explain why the research can't be accomplished without using fetal tissue.
Under the Trump administration, the NIH offered grants to organizations that found alternatives to fetal tissue research.
"This reflects a turn to poor ethics as well as poor science," said David Prentice, vice president and research director of the antiabortion Charlotte Lozier Institute who served on the now-disbanded ethics review board.
But, not all members of the ethics board are against its disbandment.
"It was a farce," said Lawrence Goldstein, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, and the only member of the advisory board who's an outspoken advocate of fetal tissue research. "Highly valuable projects that had been through multiple levels of review already went to this board to die."
The ethics board had previously reviewed 14 research proposals that would have used fetal tissue. It only approved one of the 14 for federal funding.
A handful of House Democrats apparently influenced HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra's decision to reverse Trump's restrictions.
"The previous administration's restrictions on fetal tissue research continue to threaten scientific and medical advances by blocking intramural researchers from using the material and discouraging extramural researchers from pursuing research with it," the lawmakers wrote last week. "The Trump administration's policy was politically motivated and unnecessary."
Democrat lawmakers were also the first to laud the move by the HHS.
In a statement, Democrat Reps. Suzan DelBene of Washington, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois said they "applauded" the change in policy to reverse "the Trump administration's arbitrary barriers to both extramural and intramural researchers on the use of fetal tissue in scientific research."
The change is a blow to opponents of abortion who sought to limit the use of fetal tissue in labs. Conservative groups and some Republican members criticized the HHS's decision. (Related: Pro-abortion feminist ADMITS abortion ends a human life, but says it's justifiable.)
"No taxpayer dollars should be used to buy aborted baby body parts," tweeted Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. "In fact, this practice (which the Biden admin would love to spend big on) should be ended immediately. The American people would be outraged if they knew this was happening with their hard earned dollars."
The National Right to Life Committee called the move a "sickening decision by the Biden administration."
"Tiny human babies are aborted by abortionists and then exploited to be farmed for their organs and tissue for use in experiments," Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said in a statement. "The Biden administration and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra have dismantled the process of making researchers meet any ethical standards when it comes to harvesting the body parts of aborted children for research."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins also had some strong words for Becerra and the Biden administration.
"As expected, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, a fanatical advocate for abortion, announced the Biden administration will now force American taxpayers to pay for barbaric experiments using the body parts of aborted babies. Instead of using ethical and effective alternatives, Biden is choosing to reinstate a policy that traffics in the grizzly remains of what would have been our next generation," Perkins said.
"The fact is that the remains of aborted babies have not been used to create the cure of a single disease. It's clear that the NIH under President Biden means to do the opposite of 'follow the science.'"
According to Perkins, the Biden administration does not value the inherent dignity of human life.
"Their actions deny the truth that every human life, born and unborn, possesses inherent dignity and deserves to be treated with respect," said Perkins.
Connor Semelsberger, director of Federal Affairs for Life and Human Dignity at Family Research Council, said that using body parts from aborted babies to conduct research is a "barbaric practice that should be unthinkable."
"Sadly, President Biden is instead promoting it," he said. "Proponents of aborted fetal tissue research willingly compromise ethics in the name of 'science.' However, the ends do not always justify the means."
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