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Fetal Tissue Research

The Debate

Those opposed to fetal tissue research have made a number of arguments against the use of fetuses from elective abortions. Morally opposed to abortion itself, they argue that the fetal tissue researcher is complicit in the destruction of the fetus and that fetal tissue research will create incentives for more abortions. Moreover, they maintain that a woman who has an abortion cannot legally authorize research on the aborted fetus because she has abandoned her parental responsibility through the act of abortion. They also argue that fetal tissue research can and should be restricted to fetuses from spontaneous abortions and ectopic pregnancies.

Those who favor fetal tissue research contend that it has already led to significant medical gains that have saved and improved many lives, and will continue to do so. They argue that researchers have an ethical duty to relieve suffering and cure diseases and that fetal tissue research contributes greatly to this cause. They also contend that researchers must continue to have access to ethically obtained fetuses. They hold that the tissue of fetuses from elective abortions has far fewer defects and is much easier to obtain than that of fetuses from nonelective abortions or ectopic pregnancies.

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