New England Journal of Medicine - Perspective | Alta Jaro, J.D.
We have a duty to use fetal tissue for research and therapy.
This statement might seem extreme in light of recent events that have reopened a seemingly long-settled debate over whether such research ought even be permitted, let alone funded by the government. Morality and conscience have been cited to justify defunding, and even criminalizing, the research, just as morality and conscience have been cited to justify not only health care professionals' refusal to provide certain legal medical services to their patients but even their obstruction of others' fulfillment of that duty.
But this duty of care should, I believe, be at the heart of the current storm of debate surrounding fetal tissue research, an outgrowth of the ongoing effort to defund Planned Parenthood. And that duty includes taking advantage of avenues of hope for current and future patients, particularly if those avenues are being threatened by a purely political fight — one that, in this case, will in no way actually affect the number of fetuses that are aborted or brought to term, the alleged goal of the activists involved.
The current uproar was ignited when an antiabortion activist, posing as a biomedical research company representative, captured on video — which he then edited in the most misleading way possible — discussions by Planned Parenthood physicians of the procedures they use (when recovering specific fetal organ tissues) and the cost ($30 to $100 to reimburse for costs). The effect was to portray the organization as callous and possibly criminal in its actions. This orchestrated effort led, predictably, to state and federal calls to end funding for all Planned Parenthood services — more than 95% of which involve such things as contraception and screening for sexually transmitted diseases, rather than abortion. Continue reading