Schakowsky and Pocan Introduce Legislation To Remove Barriers to Fetal Tissue Research

April 1, 2020
Press Release
Reversing Trump Administration Policy Could Clear Way for COVID-19 Treatments and Vaccines

EVANSTON, IL – Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, and Congressman Mark Pocan, Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, introduced the Protecting Cures Act of 2020 (H.R. 6417). As the world battles the coronavirus pandemic, patients are relying on the United States to quickly, safely, and accurately test all possible treatments and vaccines. However, in June 2019 President Trump imposed new restrictions on biomedical research using fetal tissue that have had a chilling effect on the ability of experts to innovate during this global pandemic. This new legislation would remove those restrictions and enact guardrails to protect biomedical research involving fetal tissue moving forward.

“Though President Trump claims almost every day that he is doing everything he can to find a treatment or cure to end the coronavirus pandemic, his restrictions on fetal tissue research are actively hindering the scientists who are trying to develop those therapeutics,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “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. We must trust the experts, listen to the science, and pass the Protecting Cures Act of 2020 to ensure that our constituents battling COVID-19 and other life-threatening diseases have access to every possible innovation.”

“In the middle of a global pandemic, we cannot allow this administration to end life-saving medical research for purely political reasons,” said Congressman Pocan. “Fetal tissue research has the proven potential to help in treatment of diseases from Alzheimer’s to ALS, and especially now during this outbreak we should have all the scientific tools at our disposal possible. This pandemic proves that we need to double down—not diminish—federal investment in medical research.”

Reps. Watson Coleman, Nadler, Speier, DeGette, Frankel, DelBene, and Huffman are all original cosponsors of this legislation.

The use of fetal tissue in biomedical research has been legal for over 40 years, and has been federally funded by presidential administrations from both parties. Numerous federal panels and reviews have evaluated human fetal tissue research and have concluded it is critical for lifesaving biomedical research.

In the 114th Congress, Congresswoman Schakowsky served as Ranking Member of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce Select Investigative Panel, which was created by House Republicans in response to anti-choice activist David Daleiden’s deceptively edited videos and false allegations for which he was later indicted. Members of Congress and the public heard hours of testimony about the real-world consequences of targeting fetal tissue research, including hindered research on treatments for a staggering number of diseases.

Scientists use new tools like adult stem cells when they can, but fetal tissue has unique and valuable properties that cannot be replaced with alternatives. Fetal tissue is an irreplaceable resource for understanding fetal and human development and identifying treatments for a vast array of conditions including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, macular degeneration, and HIV/AIDS.  Vaccines for polio, hepatitis A, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and rabies exist because of fetal tissue research.

Today, the Trump Administration’s new restrictions are life-threatening as they have halted promising research into conditions and diseases that affect millions of Americans. Last summer, the House of Representatives rejected this new policy and overwhelmingly passed an amendment to blunt its impact by a vote of 225 to 193.

Supporting organizations of the Protecting Cures Act of 2020 include: AIDS Foundation of Chicago; AIDS United; Alliance for Aging Research; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy; American Society for Reproductive Medicine; American Society of Hematology; American Thoracic Society; Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology; Association of American Medical Colleges; Cascade AIDS Project (Portland, Oregon); Coalition for the Life Sciences; Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; Endocrine Society; GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality; HealthHIV; HIV Medicine Association; Housing Works; Infectious Diseases Society of America; International Society for Stem Cell Research; Jacobs Institute of Women's Health; Medical Students for Choice; The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research; NASTAD; National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research; National Multiple Sclerosis Society; National Women's Health Network; Northwestern University; PCD Foundation; Research!America; Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine; Society of Family Planning; Treatment Action Group; Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance; University of California San Francisco; University of California system; University of Washington; University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

The text of the legislation is available HERE.