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Attorney General William Tong

10/28/2020

Attorney General Tong Multistate Coalition Pushing for Scientific and Medical Research Funding During COVID-19 Pandemic

Coalition argues the Trump Administration’s limits on fetal tissue research put limits on research into treatments for COVID-19

(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong today joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and its National Institutes of Health (NIH) urging them to reject recent recommendations made by the Trump Administration’s NIH Human Fetal Tissue Ethics Advisory Board (Board). The Board’s recommendation would withhold federal funding for fetal tissue research, putting limits on medical research into possible treatments and therapies for various health conditions, including COVID-19. The recommendation comes after a two-year campaign by the Trump Administration to block federally funded research using fetal tissue as well as an Executive Order to ban the research.

“We cannot afford to impose partisan political restrictions on medical research in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic. Regeneron—which President Trump credits with saving his life—is one potential medical breakthrough developed using cells derived from human fetal tissue. We should be rushing funding to this type of research to ensure each and every person has access to the same cutting edge medicine the President received,” said Attorney General Tong.

Fetal tissue has been an essential part of scientific and medical advances that have saved millions of lives in the United States and across the globe. Fetal tissue was used in the research that led to the polio, rubella, and measles vaccines; and remains a crucial part of vital biomedical research.

In their letter, the coalition argues the Board was not fairly balanced as required by law in terms of viewpoint, as two-thirds of its members are on record opposing abortion, fetal tissue, or both. The Board’s proceedings also lacked legally required transparency. All of its meetings were in closed session except for one virtual meeting held for less than an hour. The attorneys general urge NIH Director Francis S. Collins and HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II to use their authority to reject the Board’s recommendations and maintain federal funding for research projects that have already been recommended for funding using fetal tissue.

In sending the letter, Attorney General Tong joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the letter is available here.
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