Opponents Try Fetal Tissue Research Ban Again

For the second year in a row, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to prohibit the use of U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funds for research with fetal tissue. The first attempt was in 2017, during the preparation of the NIH’s FY18 budget. After a long battle, with the help of pro-research members of the House and the support of the ASCB and other professional scientific organizations, NIH supporters on the Hill were able to remove all of the anti-research provisions that Republicans had inserted into the FY18 NIH budget.

In June, as the House Appropriations Committee began to create the FY19 NIH budget, research opponents in the House once again inserted a ban on fetal tissue research. During Committee consideration of the NIH budget, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) offered an amendment to remove the fetal tissue ban from the bill. During debate on the Pocan amendment, supporters of the fetal tissue research ban focused their comments on what they referred to as the “abortion industry” and the selling of “baby body parts.” After 15 minutes of debate, the amendment to remove the ban was defeated.

Unlike the situation with the FY18 budget, when the U.S. Senate inserted its own watered-down fetal tissue ban, Appropriations Committee leaders in the Senate have reached a bipartisan agreement this year not to include any policy riders in the Senate versions of FY19 agency budgets. Policy riders are a means to use budgets of federal agencies to force policy changes.

As of September, it is expected that the Senate opposition to policy riders will serve as the key to removing the fetal tissue prohibition.

About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: kwilson@ascb.org