The administration of President Joe Biden has once again repudiated a Donald Trump-era rule that elevated the concerns of religious extremists over sound science.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced last week that the federal government is reversing several restrictions on fetal tissue research put in place by Trump in 2019. Although fetal tissue research shows great promise in developing therapies to combat Parkinson’s Disease, HIV, Zika virus, COVID-19 and other debilitating illnesses, Trump put restrictions on its use to appease his conservative evangelical base.
Under the Trump rules, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) lost funding for using any new fetal tissue for research conducted within the agency. Researchers outside NIH who wanted to use fetal tissue in federally funded programs had to make the case to a review board stacked with anti-abortion zealots.
The Biden administration's change in policy leaves in place ethical policies that govern consent. Much fetal issue is obtained from women who receive elective abortions. Women must still consent to allowing the tissue to be used for research.
Lawrence Goldstein, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, told National Public Radio that he’s glad to see the Trump rules being overturned. After Trump put the policy in place, he said, promising research involving fetal tissue research was often sidetracked because it couldn’t win the approval of anti-abortion zealots on Trump’s review board.
Decisions like this should have never been turned over to religious extremists in the first place. They belong in the hands of the people who have the expertise and skill to best evaluate them: members of the scientific and medical communities.