The Trump administration could end funding for groundbreaking HIV research because it relies on fetal tissue.
The White House's move threatens the health of marginalized communities for the purpose of satisfying a small part of the Republican base.
The Washington Post reports the administration could halt funding for a National Institute of Health contract with researchers at the University of California in San Francisco. Virtually all successful HIV treatments approved this far by the Food and Drug Administration build off research done by UCSF scientists there.
NIH contracting officials told UC last week that funding for a seven-year grant would end early, a week after that the NIH’s AIDS division informed the university it had secured a 30-day extension in funding, incidicating push-pull within the administration.
But the Trump administration in September announced a comprehensive review of all research funding involving “research using the body parts of children whose lives have been violently ended by abortion.”
The rhetoric alone indicates some political motivation behind the announcement.
Pro-life extremists for decades have opposed stem cell research, urging former President George W. Bush in 2001 to ban federal funding for research that utilized fetal tissue. President Obama lifted that ban in 2009.
Notably, much of the fetal tissue used in research comes from embryos discarded via in vitro fertilization, not from abortions.
The American Medical Association offers ethical guidelines to ensure abortions won’t be incentivized by the chance to advance life-saving medical research.
Science leaders tell the Post the use of fetal tissue has not led to any increase in the numbers of abortions performed in the country. Stem cell pioneer Irving Weissman said the research at UCSF remains essential to advancing HIV treatment, calling the work “absolutely essential. There is no substitute today.”