The Trump administration said Wednesday it is ending medical research by government scientists that uses human fetal tissue, a victory for abortion opponents that comes despite impassioned pleas from scientists that some health problems can't be studied any other way.
The statement added that there would be no new research within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) involving fetal tissue, but federally funded research at external institutes would continue for their approved period.
But leading scientific groups say there still are conditions where fetal tissue is the best, or even the only, option to get clear answers to some devastating disorders - because those substitutes don't act the same as tissue from the exact developmental stage that needs to be studied.
The official argued that scientists have been claiming for 26 years that fetal tissue research would lead to significant medical breakthroughs, and yet "there have been exactly zero miracle cures".
Thedecision to tighten federal support for an ideologically polarizing aspect of medical researchwas made by President Trump himself, according to a source familiar with the decision-making.
The NIH spent about $100 million on fetal tissue research projects a year ago, according to the New York Times.
As a result of the review, the administration is letting it's contract with the University of California, San Francisco expire on Wednesday.
Extramural research grants - for research outside of NIH institutions - will not now be affected during their contract period, but new applications or renewed contracts will be subjected to a strict review by an ethics review board.
"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.
New applications for grants and funding will have to undergo scientific and ethical review. "NIH has spent $120 million a year on grisly, unethical experiments involving the hearts, livers, bones, and brains harvested from babies too young and vulnerable to speak for themselves", SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser told the Daily Wire in a statement.
As for whether the government's new ethics panel would thwart researchers outside NIH, UCSD's Goldstein said, "one hopes it will be unbiased, but one never knows".
"I'm disappointed that NIH would think this is appropriate", said Carolyn Coyne, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who uses placental tissue to study viruses that affect children in the womb.
Following increasing pressure from such activists on the right, and like-minded Republicans in Congress and the administration itself, HHS last September announced it was initiating what it said would be a comprehensive review of all fetal tissue research "in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved".
Trump's Administration first threatened this research last December.
That same month, a senior scientist at an NIH lab in Montana was told that he could no longer procure fetal tissue for his lab's HIV research.
At stake is critical federal funding for research into diseases that range from HIV to cancer to Zika, vaccine production and treatment for illnesses such as Parkinson's disease. The contract previously had been renewed annually and later in 90-day increments.