On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration is sharply limiting federal funding for researchers using fetal tissue. A White House spokesman confirmed that “this was the president’s decision.”
Right-wing activists have been pushing to cut off funds for scientists working with fetal tissue for years, a crusade dating back to the 2015 sting operation by the Center for Medical Progress which used edited footage to make it look as if Planned Parenthood employees were haggling the sale of fetal body parts. This turned out to be false and was quickly debunked, but it is absolutely true that scientists sometimes rely on fetal tissue donations from abortion clinics for medical research — completely legally — and cutting off these sales is now a front on the fight to stigmatize and restrict abortion.
Trump’s decision will have immediate consequences for public health and research. According to the Post, as a result of the new rule, the administration has “canceled a multimillion-dollar contract for a university laboratory that relies on the material to test new HIV therapies.”
In many ways, the fight echoes that of embryonic stem-cell research in the early 2000s, which was heavily restricted by President George W. Bush amid evangelical hand-wringing over the rights of days-old embryos — even though the embryos in question didn’t even come from abortions.