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Stop Unethical Aborted Fetal Tissue Research at Pitt

Warning: this post includes disturbing images and descriptions of abuse of unborn children’s bodies.

The University of Pittsburgh is conducting horrific medical research on the bodies of aborted human fetuses. Yesterday morning, the Pennsylvania House Health Committee held a hearing on fetal experimentation in the Commonwealth.

One such experiment discussed by Dr. Jeremy Rich, a representative from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was the 2020 humanized mice study conducted at Pitt in which researchers harvested the scalps of 18–20 week old human fetuses from elective abortions and grafted them onto the skin of mice and rats. The published study includes photos in which the hair of these human babies can be seen growing on the backs of the rodents.

a diagram featuring photos of human skin attached to rodent backs

As a proud Pitt graduate, I was shocked to learn the extent to which my alma mater participates in this type of medical and scientific research. As a taxpayer, I was horrified to learn that our government is actively funding this cruelty. The study that required scalping these children for medical research received a $235,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC are not new to this type of research.

Dr. Rich also testified about research from 2012 where collaborators with Pitt scientists pioneered a new protocol for collecting tissue from 18–22 week old human fetuses. To be clear, this is not an issue of embryonic stem cell research, wherein apologists might attempt to claim that these fetuses are simply “clumps of cells.” At these ages, unborn children have beating hearts and rapidly developing brains. They can respond to external stimuli. They have all of their internal organs, including livers — which is what often makes them so valuable to researchers.

The protocol involves completing labor induction abortions and then immediately putting the fetal remains on ice to transport them to a laboratory. There, the bodies are dissected to harvest the liver. In order to ensure that the organs remain fit for research, the doctor performing the abortion does not inject a feticidal drug such as such as digoxin, which is typically used to guarantee that the children are not born alive during these procedures. This means that it is possible that some of the “fetuses'' dissected over these years were in fact infants who were born alive and died shortly thereafter in transport to the research labs. This would be a violation of several Pennsylvania laws that require medical care and prohibit experimentation on children born alive during attempted abortion procedures. However, there is little to no transparency or reporting required of the abortionists or researchers.

The team involved in these experiments received millions of dollars from the NIH while conducting this research. There have been many similarly gruesome experiments conducted in recent history, and there seems to be no sign of them stopping.

But why would they? Fetal tissue research regularly brings in millions of dollars in taxpayer- and privately-funded grants for the university.

When you look into the details that are publically available about these experiments — especially the ones that have published photos to accompany the findings — it is hard to imagine how the students and faculty involved are able to participate in this research. One of the people who testified before the Pennsylvania House Health Committee yesterday, Dr. Kathi Aultman, attempted to address this question. Dr. Aultman is herself a former abortion provider who testified that she was only able to perform abortions because she had dehumanized the children she aborted to an extreme degree. She described feeling uneasy when she did her rotation in the neonatal unit because, as she described it, “I was trying to save babies in the NICU that were the same age as babies I was aborting.” Eventually, she said she was able to put it to the back of her mind and move forward with performing later abortions. Dr. Aultman even described how she had to put the fully formed children's body parts back together after removing them from the patient’s womb to ensure that no pieces had been left behind. Still, she was able to rationalize it because she did not consider these children to be human.

The dehumanization and abuse of subjects in medical and scientific research is well documented. This country has a dark history of using the promise of scientific advancement to justify horrific acts against those deemed “less than” by the dominant group. One well known historical example that was discussed in today’s hearing by Professor Henry Greely, the Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford, is the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, in which Black Americans were denied life-saving drugs in order to study the disease’s effects. The University of Pittsburgh administration themselves actually had to grapple with this legacy of medical racism in their institution very recently when, after receiving pressure from student, community, and alumni groups, they moved to remove the name of Thomas Parran, Jr. (a physician involved in the Tuskegee research) from a building on campus.

We can only hope that it does not take another fifty years for the University of Pittsburgh to realize that the dehumanizing studies they are conducting today on the bodies of unborn human beings are wrong.

Here’s how you can help stand up to these inhumane, unethical, and dehumanizing experiments:

Call Chancellor Pat Gallagher and demand that the University of Pittsburgh puts an end to their contracts that require the continued destruction of innocent human life: (412) 624-4200

Sign the petition:

Attend our protest Friday, May 7th, on the University of Pittsburgh Campus:

Follow us on social media @RehumanizeIntl and get on our email list to keep up with developments:

Share the PDF factsheet:

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Donate to sustain our work so that we can continue to shine a light on this grave injustice against the unborn members of our human family:


Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

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