NIH to make announcement on fetal tissue research policy amid Trump-era restrictions

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to make an announcement on its fetal tissue research policy following a Trump administration ban, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Health Care: CDC director calls on Michigan to ‘close things down’ amid surge in cases | Regeneron says antibody therapy prevents COVID-19 infections HHS expands Medicaid postpartum coverage for Illinois mothers up to a year after giving birth Over 500,000 people sign up for ObamaCare in special sign-up period MORE said on Thursday. 

During a House Appropriations subcommittee, Becerra said NIH “will be making an announcement I believe tomorrow” on the ban implemented in 2019 

“You want to keep your ears open for that,” he said. “But we believe that we have to do the research that it takes to make sure that we’re incorporating innovation and getting all of those types of treatments and therapies out there to the American people.”


Later in the hearing, Rep. Ben ClineBenjamin (Ben) Lee ClineHouse approves bills tightening background checks on guns READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Parties collide over police reform MORE (R-Va.) said, “I hope you’re going to continue the Trump administration policy and that’s going to be your announcement tomorrow.”

But the upcoming notice on fetal tissue research comes after 26 Democratic House members sent a letter to Becerra earlier this week calling for the Biden administration to end the Trump-era restriction. 

The letter, led by Reps. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneTo encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision Lawmakers reintroduce legislation to secure internet-connected devices Hillicon Valley: House approves almost billion in cyber, tech funds as part of relief package | Officials warn of ‘widespread’ exploit of Microsoft vulnerabilities | Facebook files to dismiss antitrust lawsuits MORE (Wash.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHillicon Valley: House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs | Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms | Lawmakers reintroduce bill to secure internet-connected devices Progressives up pressure on Biden to back COVID vaccine patent waiver House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs MORE (Ill.), and Mark PocanMark William PocanBiden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike Senate GOP slams Biden defense budget Omar rips Bezos amid union fight: Forces workers to ‘defecate in bags’ MORE (Wis.), labeled fetal tissue as “an irreplaceable resource for research that has led to numerous scientific and medical advances,” including treatment for COVID-19.

“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 lawmakers wrote. “The Trump administration’s policy was politically motivated and unnecessary.”

The Democrats also said that fetal tissue has been used to treat cystic fibrosis and hemophilia as well as assisted in studying Zika, HIV, ALS and Parkinson’s disease. Supporters of using fetal tissue in research have said it’s been used for decades, including in creating the first polio and measles vaccines. 


Then-President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities’ sustainability efforts MORE faced pressure from anti-abortion organizations to stop allowing federal funding to go to research projects that use fetal tissue from elective abortions. The former president announced the ban in June 2019, as well as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar contract with the University of California, San Francisco, which utilized fetal tissue in HIV studies.  

“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” HHS said in a statement at the time. 

House Democrats responded that same month with a vote to block the ban. But the measure did not go anywhere in the Republican-majority Senate. 

Several Democratic members also requested that Trump rescind the ban amid the COVID-19 pandemic in April of last year, so federal funding could go to research on treatments involving fetal tissues.