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After Trump's Decree, Scientists Feel the Chill

They're bracing themselves for funding cuts
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 8, 2019 5:00 PM CDT
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In this Tuesday, May 23, 2017 file photo, activists dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale" chant in the Texas Capitol Rotunda as they protest a bill that would require health care facilities,to bury or cremate any fetal remains whether from abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(Newser) – To save babies from brain-damaging birth defects, University of Pittsburgh scientist Carolyn Coyne studies placentas from fetuses that otherwise would be discarded—and she's worried this kind of research is headed for the chopping block, the AP reports. The Trump administration is cracking down on fetal tissue research, with new hurdles for government-funded scientists around the country who call the special cells vital for fighting a range of health threats. Already, the administration has shut down one university's work using fetal tissue to test HIV treatments, and is ending other fetal tissue research at the National Institutes of Health. "I knew this was something that's going to trickle down to the rest of us," said Coyne.

She uses the placenta to study how viruses such as Zika get past that protective barrier early in pregnancy. Under orders from President Donald Trump, the Health and Human Services Department abruptly announced Wednesday the new restrictions on taxpayer-funded research, but not privately funded work. Aside from the cancellation of an HIV-related project at UC San Francisco, university-led projects that are funded by the NIH—estimated to be fewer than 200—aren't affected right away. But as researchers seek to renew their funding or propose new studies, HHS said it will have to pass an extra layer of review. "I predict over time we will see a slow and steady elimination of federal funding for research that uses fetal tissue, regardless of how necessary it is," says a nationally recognized bioethics expert.

(Read more fetal tissue stories.)

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