NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Local pro-life and pro-choice forces offered strong, but different reactions to the Trump administration’s decision to end medical research by government scientists that uses fetal tissue.
The change comes as pro-choice advocates in Louisiana are upset over the state’s recently enacted an anti-abortion “heartbeat” law, which prohibits abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Jennifer Holl, of the organization Women with A Vision, said the fetal research decision is discouraging given what is at stake.
"It’s really disappointing because that research is critical for a whole range of treatments and scientific advancements, including treatment for HIV and cancer,” Holl said.
But, pro-life forces are hailing the decision.
Ben Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right-to-Life, said President Donald Trump was urged to make the change.
"Louisiana Right to Life is thankful that the Trump Administration has ended the policy of allowing research on the broken bodies of aborted children in our nation. This has gone on long enough,” Clapper said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in addition to ending its contract with a lab at the University of California at San Francisco, the National Institutes of Health’s intramural research which involves the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions would be discontinued.
GOP House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana issued the following statement after HHS’ announcement:
"The government has no business subsidizing researchers that traffic the body parts of aborted babies, especially the babies from this contract which are shockingly around 17 and 24 weeks gestation. The United States is the most innovative nation in the world; alternatives to fetal tissue research exist and should be pursued. It is reprehensible for anyone to profit from the tragedy of abortion and the Trump Administration is making that clear by saying no to this ethically tainted research."
Meanwhile, Holl suggested that politics could be at work in the decision-making.
"It really just feels like they're catering to the anti-abortion movement and putting politics above the people's well-being,” she said.
And, Holl said the move could hurt government efforts to wipe out HIV in the U.S.
"The president and the administration have also said that they are vowing to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 and this seems to be in direct conflict with that goal,” Holl said.
Clapper said the change clears the way to enhance funding for other types of medical research.
"One good thing about the ruling today is that it places the money that is being used currently on aborted babies to other forms of scientific research that's been proven to be more successful, including ethical stem cell research,” Clapper said.
Government-funded research by universities will be allowed to continue but there will be additional scrutiny.