The agency declared its change Friday in the cancellation of former President Donald Trump's directive to restrict the use of human fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions.
"This notice informs the extramural research community that HHS is reversing its 2019 decision that all research applications for NIH grants and contracts proposing the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions will be reviewed by an Ethics Advisory Board," a National Institutes of Health notice stated.
A handful of House Democrats pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to reverse Trump's limitations.
"The previous administration’s restrictions on fetal tissue research continue to threaten scientific and medical advances by blocking intramural researchers from using the material and discouraging extramural researchers from pursuing research with it. The Trump Administration’s policy was politically motivated and unnecessary. The longstanding legal and ethical framework for the oversight of fetal tissue research has been in place for decades and ensures compliance with federal law and ethics rules. Furthermore, fetal tissue would be discarded if not donated for biomedical research," the lawmakers wrote Tuesday.
“Fetal tissue is vital for advancing scientific research on human development, neurological conditions, and infectious diseases, and it is crucial for creating disease models to test new therapies quickly. This research cannot be replaced with other cell types or model systems because the unique properties of fetal tissue cannot be replicated at this time,” they went on, “Fetal tissue remains essential for creating models of the human immune system to study infectious diseases, including Zika, HIV, and COVID-19. It also remains crucial for ongoing clinical research for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), spinal cord injury, and Parkinson’s disease.”
In 2018, a coalition of anti-abortion advocates pressed the Department of Health and Human Services to stop federally funded fetal tissue research, citing ethics matters.
Under the Trump administration, the National Institutes of Health offered grants to organizations that would discover alternatives to fetal tissue research.
Conservative organizations and some Republican members scrutinized the decision to restart the practice.
"No taxpayer dollars should be used to buy aborted baby body parts," tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. "In fact, this practice (which the Biden admin would love to spend big on) should be ended immediately. The American people would be outraged if they knew this was happening with their hard earned dollars."