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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Remove Restrictions on Fetal Tissue Research

April 3, 2020

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Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
Christa Wagner, Senior Legislative Analyst

Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) introduced on April 1 the Protecting Cures Act of 2020 (H.R. 6417) that ensures all biomedical research tools — including fetal tissue — are available to develop treatments and vaccines against COVID-19. The AAMC joined nearly 40 members of the higher education, research, and patient advocacy communities in support of the bill.

“Research using fetal tissue plays an indispensable role in vital medical innovation that may result in a new age of vaccines for infectious diseases and treatment for debilitating diseases like ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, childhood leukemia, and now COVID-19,” said Rep. Schakowsky in a press statement.  

The bill would remove restrictions imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2019 [see Washington Highlights, June 7, 2019] on the use of human fetal tissue in National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research. The bill would prohibit the HHS secretary from withholding funds for NIH-funded fetal tissue research in cases of technical and scientific merit. The bill also reiterates that the Human Fetal Tissue Transplantation Research Panel report published in December 1988, which meets the statutory requirements for an ethics advisory board under HHS’ fetal tissue policy, has already deemed fetal tissue research ethical to conduct and support, rendering the need for additional ethics advisory boards unnecessary.

Joining Reps. Schakowsky and Pocan are original cosponsors Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.).

On March 25, the AAMC joined nearly 100 organizations representing the medical and scientific communities fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on a letter urging President Donald Trump to lift the restrictions on NIH-funded research using human fetal tissue to allow all biomedical research tools to be available for the development of new vaccines and cures to respond to COVID-19 [see Washington Highlights, March 27].

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