January 9, 2019 Press Release

Equity Forward Launches Multi-Platform Campaign Calling on HHS Secretary Alex Azar to Protect $100M in Lifesaving Research

01.09.19 – Equity Forward today launched a new “Put People Before Politics” campaign with a powerful video, website and social media component calling on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar not to cut millions of dollars in lifesaving research at the behest of the anti-abortion lobby.

Since September, HHS has been considering eliminating nearly $100 million of federal funding used to research cures for diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, HIV, Zika and Autism because it uses tissue that a woman decides to donate after an abortion. President Trump and Azar are putting $100 million of research funding at risk in order to appease the anti-abortion lobby, letting extreme ideology, not science, determine research at our nation’s health department.

Equity Forward’s video cites the 64 scientific, medical organizations and patient advocacy groups that support this lifesaving research, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Harvard University, who have called on Congress to protect the funding. The video also notes that most Americans support the research, according to a 2015 Monmouth University poll.

“As we begin the new year, Alex Azar continues to prioritize the demands of the anti-abortion lobby over the protection and advancement of our health. Almost $100 million of lifesaving research is currently at risk — research that could find cures for people impacted by Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and HIV,” said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward.

“Azar is pandering to Washington lobbyists and elevating far-right ideology ahead of sound science. We call on Secretary Azar to listen to the scientific and medical community when making life or death decisions, not the hardliners who will stop at nothing to criminalize abortion.”

In addition to today’s website and video launch, Equity Forward took out a full-page ad in Politico in December 2018 telling HHS Secretary Azar not to cut the funding for lifesaving research.

Watch the video HERE.


On December 10, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a funding announcement for finding alternatives to using cells from fetal tissue in research, despite the fact that vaccines developed by relying on such research have played a large part in saving and improving the lives of billions of people. That funding announcement followed the news that HHS shut down a study that could potentially find a cure for HIV because the research relies on cells derived from fetal tissue. The assault on this type of research comes a little over two months after Secretary Azar — bowing to pressure from the anti-abortion lobby — abruptly cancelled a long-standing contract with a fetal tissue provider while also announcing “a comprehensive review” of all fetal tissue research and procurement. This flies in the face of the scientific community, 64 of whom submitted a letter recently urging Congress to protect lifesaving research.

Not content on only cutting these two contracts, Azar is also reportedly considering discontinuing more than $100 million in research projects involving fetal tissue and is soliciting input on plans from anti-abortion interest groups including Susan B Anthony (SBA) List, whose President was an outspoken Trump campaigner. In addition to holding extreme and out-of-touch views on abortion — including advocating for abortion bans without an exception for rape and incest — SBA List also promotes the work of the man who champions such bogus science as the idea that a woman’s body has properties to protect her from getting pregnant after rape.

On December 13, 2018, the GOP-led House Oversight Committee held a sham hearing on “alternatives” to fetal tissue, where two representatives from SBA List’s research arm, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, testified. One of the CLI witnesses, Tara Sander Lee, began her testimony by lying about the necessity and impact of fetal tissue funding, flying in the face of experts at the National Institute of Health (NIH). Her colleague David Prentice made similar claims, stating that “ample scientific alternatives exist” to fetal tissue research, though scientists also refute those claims. In light of that hearing, Equity Forward took out a full-page ad in Politico telling HHS Secretary Azar not to cut the funding for lifesaving research.