AG Alan Wilson part of multistate effort to preserve ban on federally funded fetal tissue research

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – April 17, 2020 – South Carolina Attorney Alan Wilson joined a letter sent this week to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other top federal officials supporting the administration’s current ban on federal funding for fetal tissue research. The letter is signed by the attorneys general of 18 states in addition to South Carolina.

Last month, a California-led coalition of 15 other attorneys general called upon President Trump to end the ban in order to facilitate studies they claimed could lead to new methods of fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Advocates for fresh fetal tissue research say it could produce medical breakthroughs in such areas as developing vaccines, but Attorney General Wilson noted that such claims are mostly unsupported by scientific evidence.

“The California letter declares, ‘The present moment is not a time for politics.’ But exploiting a national emergency to forward their own political goals is exactly what California and its allied states seek to do,” Attorney General Wilson and the other attorney generals say in their letter. “President Trump’s ban on federally funded fetal tissue research rejects California’s assessment that the felt needs of the moment justify crossing moral boundaries. Such principles are most critical in moments such as this, where the temptation to use others for our own ends is strongest.”

Attorney General Wilson said, “I’ve always been proudly pro-life, but even if you set aside the moral question, there’s no evidence that fetal tissue research could help develop a vaccine for COVID-19 or anything else. As we point out in our letter, fresh fetal tissue from elective abortions, as opposed to cell lines that were collected from abortions decades ago, has never helped develop a single vaccine.”

The letter is led by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously affirmed Indiana’s contention that states have a legitimate interest in enforcing the respectful handling of fetal remains (Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky).

“Fetal tissue research has serious ethical and moral ramifications,” Attorney General Hill said. “Fetal tissue is unquestionably human tissue. The foundation of ethical research on human subjects is respect for self-determination — even among those, such as fetuses, incapable of self-determination.”

The letter urges the Trump administration to stand by its priority of “promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death even in this global health crisis,” Attorney General Wilson said. “In order to make advances in the ethical treatment of human remains, this nation must reject the false notion that scientists cannot achieve the laudable goal of creating vaccines and treatment for COVID-19 without using unethical means.”

You can read the letter to the Trump administration here.

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