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Op-Ed Blasts Efforts To Ban, Restrict Fetal Tissue Research Following CMP Videos

October 13, 2015 — "Fetal-tissue research is collateral damage in the war against Planned Parenthood, and it has already been banned or severely restricted in six states," Katha Pollitt writes in an opinion piece for The Nation.

Pollitt explains that fetal tissue research has helped develop vaccines for "polio, mumps, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis, [and] rabies" and now is being used to develop treatment for "Parkinson's, HIV, breast cancer, diabetes, [and] the flu." Meanwhile, she notes that several conservative lawmakers who in 1993 voted to "lif[t] President Reagan's ban on federal funding for the research ... are now baying for Planned Parenthood's blood in the wake of the videos secretly recorded by anti-choice activists." She writes, "It's amusing to see them try to square that vote with their newfound abhorrence for what it legalized."

Pollitt details efforts in several states to restrict fetal tissue research. For example, she notes that "Nebraska and Wyoming ban the transfer of fetal tissue, and New Jersey and California are considering laws that would limit suppliers' ability to recover costs." Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in August "issued a temporary rule requiring abortion clinics to report the destination of fetal tissue to state health officials," while "North Carolina has just passed a bill criminalizing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses (already illegal under federal law)" and "defund[ing] Planned Parenthood's teen-pregnancy-prevention programs." Further, "the Wisconsin state legislature is debating not just banning the sale of fetal tissue (already illegal, see above) but making research using tissue from any fetus aborted after January 1, 2015, a felony [AB 305]," Pollitt writes.

Pollitt cites a conversation with Robert Golden, dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, who said, "Those who claim that fetal tissue is unnecessary 'are not talking to leaders in the field.'" According to Pollitt, Golden explained that, "[b]esides the threat to researchers currently using fetal tissue in their work ... there would be a chilling effect going forward; why would top scientists come to Wisconsin?" In fact, according to Golden, the Wisconsin bill might fail "because business-oriented conservatives recognize the potential damage to Wisconsin's burgeoning biotech industry," Pollitt writes (Pollitt, The Nation, 10/8).