Texas' Forever War Against Fetal Tissue Research Continues

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Thursday, Dr. Raymond Greenberg, the executive vice chancellor for health affairs for the University of Texas System, made it clear why fetal tissue research is so important. Despite all the knashing of teeth from the state of Texas' Republican leadership, the research is absolutely vital to studying early human development and fighting things like neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, which effects children born prematurely.

“While this research is a small part of our collective scientific enterprise, it is work that would be difficult or impossible to do in other ways, and which typically is focused on conditions that have a huge impact on the lives of those affected, such as premature infants and children with congenital health problems,” Greenberg told the Texas House State Affairs Committee.

The committee heard from Greenberg, state health officials and advocacy groups Thursday at the behest of House Speaker Joe Strauss. Strauss, like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott, was stirred into action against fetal tissue research by the series of heavily edited videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas and across the country selling fetal tissue. The videos did no such thing — David Daleiden, the man behind them, was indicted by a Harris County grand jury after Patrick asked the county to look into the tapes — but anti-choice groups and the state have continued to pursue the matter, seeking to ban or severely limit fetal tissue research in the state.

Greenberg said Thursday that fetal tissue research takes place under strict guidelines at three hospitals in the University of Texas System. None of the tissue used — which costs the UT System between $1,000 and $25,000 annually — comes from any abortion clinic in Texas. Committee Chairman Byron Cook said Thursday that that might not go far enough.

“[M]aybe we shouldn’t be looking at the utilization of tissue from miscarriages as opposed to tissue from elective abortion. We do have to give a lot of thought to informed consent and make sure we have something that everyone is comfortable with,” Cook said.

Everybody, or maybe just what pro-lifers like Jennifer Almond, associate director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, can stomach.

Almond stressed the need for reverence of any fetal tissue being used for research purposes, telling the committee that medical students experimenting on cadavers often cremate their subjects' remains at the end of their time using them. Her organization's goal, she said, was for the state to ban any fetal tissue research that used tissue obtained in an induced abortion.

“I want to acknowledge my own shock and horror at the callous negotiation in the Center for Medical Progress videos. Even if these videos are heavily edited, as some claim, the disrespect for human life and human remains is chilling,” Almond said.

No Texas Planned Parenthood has contributed tissue to or solicited tissue for fetal tissue research since 2005, when Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast partnered with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston for a study on miscarriages.

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