Some board members, such as Dr. Lawrence Goldstein of the University of California San Diego, support fetal tissue research; he called cell lines from fetal tissue "critical in vaccine development," along with stem cell research and the use of "humanized mice" to develop "immune cell-forming tissues."
Two members testified in 2016 before the House select investigative panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a hearing on "bioethics and fetal tissue."
Cunningham said at the hearing that "[t]he fetus is a human subject entitled to the protections that both traditional and modern codes of medical ethics provide to human subjects."
Kevin Donovan, MD, director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical Center, also testified, noting the current "moral ambiguity" in the nation's discourse on abortion.
"We have decided that we can legally abort the same fetus that might otherwise be a candidate for fetal surgery, even using the same indications as justification for acts that are diametrically opposed," he said. "We call it the fetus if it is to be aborted and its tissues and organs transferred to a scientific lab. We call it a baby, even at the same stage of gestation, when someone plans to keep it and bring it into their home."
"If we cannot act with moral certainty regarding the appropriate respect and dignity of the fetus, we cannot morally justify its destruction," he said.
During the public portion of the July 31 meeting, board members were introduced and then heard from several researchers who were either in support of or in opposition to research using fetal tissue from elective abortions.
The 2008 Vatican document Dignitatis Personae addressed the topic of aborted fetal tissue research, saying that "there is a duty to refuse to use such 'biological material' even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion, or when there was no prior agreement with the centers in which the artificial fertilization took place."
"This duty springs from the necessity to remove oneself, within the area of one's own research, from a gravely unjust legal situation and to affirm with clarity the value of human life," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document stated.