U.S. health agency cancels research contract involving use of fetal tissue

(Reuters) – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Wednesday it would cancel its research contract involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions with the University of California.

FILE PHOTO: HHS Secretary Alex Azar testifies before a Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2020 for the Health and Human Services Department on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

The decision follows an audit of all HHS research involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions in light of “the serious regulatory, moral and ethical considerations involved,” the U.S. agency said bit.ly/2Z9Bm32

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in U.S. politics, with opponents often citing religious beliefs to call it immoral. Abortion rights advocates have said restrictions being passed at the state level amount to state control of women’s bodies.

Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri are among the U.S. states that have passed measures to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, a move heavily opposed by pro-choice supporters in the country.

Any research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted, the agency said.

The HHS will also undertake changes to its regulations and NIH grants policy regarding research outside the NIH involving human fetal tissue, the agency said.

The HHS said the existing contract with the San Francisco university would not be renewed, after it expires on Wednesday.

The agency said it had terminated in September a contract between Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that provided human fetal tissue to develop testing protocols.

The HHS said it would continue to review whether adequate alternatives exist to the use of human fetal tissues and ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded.

(The story corrects fourth paragraph to “pro-choice supporters” from “anti-abortion campaigners”.)

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by James Emmanuel and Shailesh Kuber

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