Bioethics Blogs

Abortion: “Loopholes” and Attitudes

Earlier this week, Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote in the Wall Street Journal about “Closing the Planned Parenthood Loophole.”  In his article (which was accompanied by a photo of a 12-week fetus), Dr. Gottlieb argued that the 1993 National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act should be amended to delete the word “solely” from the requirement that the doctor performing the abortion certify that “no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue.”  That “solely,” Dr. Gottlieb argues, allows Planned Parenthood (or another entity providing fetal tissue from abortions for the sake of research) to claim it is in accord with the letter of the law, while clearly flouting its spirit.

Well enough.  But Dr. Gottlieb also spends considerable effort to claim that the research requiring newly-acquired fetal tissue is uncommon, or can be done with embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, or fetal cells that are already available.  (Presumably, induced pluripotent stem cells could also be used.)  “The market for fetal tissue is limited… [and] the demand for the tissue isn’t that high.”  So, toughening the laws in this regard would have “little consequence” to research that is supposedly “essential.” 

So why not just ban the use of newly-acquired fetal tissue for research, if the need is low or even non-existent?  The Journal has also recently reported on proposed state laws that would do just that.  A proposal in Wisconsin has apparently rankled the dean of the medical school there, who pronounces such a law “bizarre…it will turn the lights off on research.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.