Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Breaking ties with the abortion industry

Abortion | The U.S. government pivots to research that doesn’t destroy life
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 6/10/19, 04:22 pm

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will no longer fund research using tissue from aborted babies, following a trajectory begun in September 2018. HHS announced last week it had discontinued a funding contract with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), for HIV research involving mice with humanized immune systems using aborted fetal tissue.

The $13,799,501 contract came under review last fall when HHS put its funding program for research using fetal tissue from abortions under audit and review. At that time, the Food and Drug Administration canceled an agreement with fetal tissue procurement company Advanced Bioscience Resources.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which falls under HHS oversight, has renewed the funding for the UCSF project annually since 2013. HHS said in a statement last week it will “discontinue intramural research … involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortion” while continuing to fund research into alternative tissue sources.

Ongoing research contracts that are funded by the NIH but not conducted at NIH labs will not be affected, according to HHS, but new applications for grants for research using fetal tissue will be subject to a review by an ethics advisory board.

Jonathan Imbody, vice president government affairs for the Christian Medical Association, called the decision courageous on the part of the federal government. “This combination of adhering to life-honoring ethical standards while also aggressively pursuing and investing in scientific innovation is the best path to solid advances in medicine that every American can support and many patients can embrace for healing,” he said in a statement.

Abortion advocates and some scientists sounded the alarm that halting research using fetal tissue could endanger advances in disease prevention and treatment.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood said the HHS decision “will undermine scientific discovery and the ability to find effective treatments for serious and life-threatening disease.” Meanwhile, the chancellor rejected plans last month to expand the university’s relationship with Dignity Health, a Catholic-affiliated hospital network, based on its refusal to perform abortions, euthanasia, or transgender surgeries.

Doug Melton, co-director of Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute and president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, said that “today, fetal tissue is still making an impact, with clinical trials underway using cells from fetal tissue to treat conditions including Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and spinal cord injury.”

But David Prentice and Tara Sander Lee, two doctors with the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, pointed out that the HHS decision won’t affect those studies, which use fetal stem cells rather than fresh tissue, don’t show any success, and rely on private funding rather than taxpayer dollars.

Last week’s decision, Prentice said in a statement, shows the government’s “investment in scientifically proven methods for research” that do not require tissue from aborted babies and “have been used in the production of treatments, vaccines, and medicines currently on the market; the key is that our government will now invest in effective research methods that do not rely on the destruction of human life.”

Instagram/Noa Pothoven Instagram/Noa Pothoven Noa Pothoven

Grief upon grief

A Dutch teen’s death by starvation and dehydration sparked an international outcry last week when some media outlets reported she underwent euthanasia. But Noa Pothoven, 17, died from the effects of anorexia after she convinced her parents and healthcare providers not to force-feed her through a tube.

Having been raped at the ages of 11 and 14, Pothoven said her life had become unbearable. “I relive that fear, that pain every day,” she wrote in her book Winning or Learning. “Always scared, always on my guard. And to this day my body still feels dirty. My house has been broken into, my body, that can never be undone.”

Her repeated suicide attempts and anorexia landed her in numerous hospitals and institutions in the past several years. She requested euthanasia from a clinic in The Hague last year, but doctors told her she was too young. Pothoven died at home on June 2.

“After years of fighting, it is finished,” she wrote in a now-deleted Instagram account. “I have now stopped eating and drinking for a while, and after many conversations and judgments, it has been decided that I will be released because my suffering is unbearable.”

Her tragic death has also drawn attention to what Pothoven called a lack of services for people with mental illness. “If you have a serious heart disease, you can undergo surgery within a few weeks,” she said. “But if you become acutely mentally ill, then they say casually: Unfortunately, we are full, just go on the waiting list. And you have to know that 1 in 10 anorexia patients in the Netherlands dies from the consequences of the eating disorder.” —S.G.

Associated Press/Photo by Blake Paterson Associated Press/Photo by Blake Paterson University employees remove the name of Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. from a sign at the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa on Friday.

Across the nation

Oregon: A bill to eliminate waiting periods for assisted suicide passed in the state Senate 16-11 last month and is scheduled for a hearing Monday in the House. Lois Anderson, director of Oregon Right to Life, decried the bill, saying, “Persons near death deserve the same protections under the law. Even more, they deserve proper care, compassion, and confirmation of their inherent value, not a deadly prescription.”

Alabama: After a donor asked students to boycott the University of Alabama over the state’s new protections for unborn babies, the school’s board of trustees refunded his $26.5 million donation. Board members insisted they made decision because of difficulties working with the donor, not the donor’s pro-abortion stance.

Maine: The state legislature sent an assisted suicide bill last week to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat. She has not yet said if she will sign it. Seven other states and the District of Columbia have legalized assisted suicide.

Nebraska: Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, signed a measure making Nebraska the ninth state to require abortionists to inform women about the abortion pill reversal process. —S.G.

Gallup poll: Abortion is morally wrong

A larger percentage of Americans believe that cloning animals is morally worse than aborting babies, but at least more people oppose abortion than support it, Gallup’s latest annual Values and Beliefs poll found. According to the survey, 50 percent of Americans say abortion is morally wrong, while 42 percent say it is morally acceptable. The split between conservatives and liberals on abortion was the widest of all the views: 73 percent of liberals say abortion is acceptable, compared to 23 percent of conservatives. The next most divisive issues are the acceptance of homosexual relationships and assisted suicide, which both have a 36 point split between liberals (81 percent and 71 percent, respectively) and conservatives (45 percent and 36 percent). —S.G.

Still sending pills

Abortionist Rebecca Gomperts, owner of Aid Access, said in a statement on her group’s Facebook page that she won’t follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s orders to stop sending illegal abortion-inducing pills to women in the United States. —S.G.

Samantha Gobba

Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.

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  • not silent
    Posted: Sat, 06/15/2019 11:23 am

    Thank you for the clarification about Noa Pothoven's death, and I think this case illustrates how serious and complicated eating disorders can be.  I am considered to be "in remission" from anorexia and bulimia, but I know many others who still struggle. According to, anorexia has the highest mortality of any mental disorder.  The mortality rate is around 10%.  While some of the deaths are due to starvation, suicide is also very common in people with anorexia.

     When I was actively anorexic, people would try to help me by telling me I could die; but I honestly didn't care. Although most people focused on my weight and what I was eating, the problem wasn't ultimately about food.  I had unconsciously come to equate normal weight and eating with being flawed and out of control, and not eating made me feel more virtuous and in control.  When people asked about my weight or told me to eat, I just felt more flawed and out of control and it was a viscious cycle.  I had to get help to deal with the shame and my reasons for feeling that way before I could return to normal eating habits, and I had to be the one to make that choice.

    Not everyone's experience is the same; but, in my case, there were professionals who were supposed to be experts in eating disorders who used shame to try to bully me into compliance-but it only made me and the others around me worse.  I would not have made it without the professionals who DID know what they were doing PLUS help from my family and especially from the Lord.  


  • OldMike
    Posted: Sun, 06/16/2019 11:45 pm

    Proponents of using fetal tissue for medical research (who are generally pro-abortion) fear that bans “will undermine scientific discovery and the ability to find effective treatments for serious and life-threatening disease.”

    Odd they worry about missing out on some great medical discovery, yet ignore the likelihood that, of the 61 million babies aborted since Roe v. Wade, there surely would have been a few who would have grown up to do significant work as medical researchers. 

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were 120,000 working in medical research in 2016.  From that you can estimate that out of the 61 million abortions (equal to about 1/5th of current US population), around 24,000 potential medical researchers did not get born.