December 19, 2018 Press Release

In New Low, Anti-Abortion Lobby Calls for Ouster of NIH Chief...for Supporting Science

12.19.18 - As reported last night, March for Life and Live Action are calling on Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Alex Azar to fire National Institutes of Health (NIH) chief Francis Collins due to his support for funding lifesaving research that uses fetal tissue to find cures for diseases including HIV, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.  Collins — who is a well-respected physician-geneticist and has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations — has argued that supporting fetal tissue funding is a “pro-life” stance.

Equity Forward issued the following statement in response:

“The anti-abortion lobby has reached a new low in calling for the ouster of NIH Chief Francis Collins,” said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward.  “March for Life has the audacity to call themselves pro-science while in the same breath rejecting basic facts about lifesaving research while Live Action is notorious for manipulating the truth to advance their narrow worldview.  

“Secretary Azar should be taking advice from scientists and researchers when it comes to this research, not the anti-abortion lobby.  A small group of narrow-minded ideologues should not be dictating our nation’s health policy and it’s time for Azar to stop empowering them to do so.”

Additional Background

It has been reported that Azar is 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.

Last week, 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.