No Go for Fetal Tissue Transplantation
President Bush last week vetoed legislation that would have lifted the current ban on the use of federal funds for transplantation research involving tissue from aborted human fetuses. But almost before the ink dried on the President's veto, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment introduced a new bill containing what he described as "a good-faith compromise" to settle the controversial issue.
Federal spending for fetal tissue transplatation research was prohibited in 1988 by the Reagan administration on the grounds that it might encourage women to have abortions. Even though a panel of scientists and ethicists later that year advised lifting the ban, the Bush administration has continued it (SN: 11/11/89, p.310).
Researchers abroad and at some privately funded U.S. centers have transplanted fetal tissue into patients with disorders such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes and Huntington's disease. Although initial studies demonstrated few benefits (SN: 11/19/88, p.324), several patients have improved following fetal tissue transplants (SN: 11/16/91, p.308). On the basis of these positive results, researchers have argued that the federal government should lift the funding ban to allow wider testing.
The provision overturning the fetal tissue ban was included in a larger bill authorizing funds to operate the National Institutes of Health. …