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University Caves to Anti-Choice Pressure, Suspends Fetal Tissue Acquisition From Some Vendors

Jason Salzman

Despite the absence of evidence that Planned Parenthood broke any laws, the university has suspended fetal-tissue acquisitions from entities “implicated in the Planned Parenthood investigation.” But research will continue using tissue from other sources.

See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

Despite the absence of evidence that Planned Parenthood violated any laws, Colorado State University (CSU) officials have suspended the school from acquiring fetal tissue from entities linked to Planned Parenthood until “Congressional investigations are concluded.”

CSU President Tony Frank made the decision in the wake of pressure from anti-choice Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), who demanded in a July 17 letter that the university stop the “purchases of aborted babies’ body parts” for use in research.

Lamborn cited 2013 documents apparently released by the anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress, and promoted by LifeNews.com, an anti-choice website, showing that CSU acquired fetal tissue from a California company called StemExpress.

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The university, located in the town of Ft. Collins, about an hour from Denver, initially defended its use of fetal tissue in research and gave no indication that it would take action in response to Lamborn.

In a strongly-worded response email, the university stated that its fetal-tissue research complies with all regulations, and “CSU has used cells from fetal tissue samples as part of research to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.”

Fetal-tissue donations, the university email stated, “by their nature, inevitably come in the face of a difficult or tragic situation, and we believe they are made in the hope that they will do some good.”

CSU President Tony Frank backtracked somewhat in a July 23 letter to Lamborn, stating that he’d accepted the recommendations of the university’s Bioethics Advisory Committee to suspend the “acquisition of fetal tissue from StemExpress or other vendors implicated in the Planned Parenthood investigation pending the outcome of the Congressional investigation,” and “all efforts should be made to seek alternatives to aborted fetal tissue.”

A CSU spokesman, who provided background material on the fetal-tissue decision, declined to say whether the university had put any time limit on the “Congressional investigation” and how the university would evaluate the “outcome” of such investigations.

The university spokesman declined to say if CSU was alleging any legal wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, in light of the fact that no such wrongdoing has been demonstrated.

“Indiana and Massachusetts have completely cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, and the makers of these videos are under a restraining order in California,” said Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “It’s unfortunate that CSU chose not to wait until the facts were in and the agenda behind it. I would hope as more details emerge about the misleading nature of the recent videos, that CSU will reinstate the program for the sake of public health and medical research.”

Lamborn, who introduced a bill last week to halt all use of fetal tissue resulting from an “induced abortion” in medical research, issued a statement saying CSU’s actions were insufficient.

“These steps are definitely headed in the right direction. However, they simply aren’t far enough,” Lamborn wrote in a statement. “I call on President Frank to commit to no longer using aborted babies’ body parts in research. There are profound ethical, moral, and legal questions with this practice that deeply trouble many Coloradans.”

In its report to Frank, CSU’s Bioethics Advisory Committee wrote of the CSU’s fetal-tissue research: “The research has produced significant results regarding HIV infection, pathogenesis, and treatments, and has resulted in many research publications over the lifetime of the projects. In the course of the research, many students have been trained and supported as part of the land grant mission of CSU. All of the research performed was executed under the appropriate human and animal use committee requirements and reviewed by relevant CSU committees to assure compliance with federal regulations.”

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