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Catholic bishops, pro-life leaders: COVID-19 vaccines should be ‘free from any connection to abortion’

We 'strongly urge our federal government to ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines,' they wrote.
Mon Apr 20, 2020 - 10:36 am EST
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PETITION: Pres. Trump don't give federal funds to COVID-19 vaccines made from aborted baby cells Sign the petition here.

UNITED STATES, April 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – U.S. Catholic bishops and pro-life leaders have sent an open letter to federal health authorities and the Trump administration calling for them to ensure that Americans will have access to coronavirus vaccines which are “free from any connection to abortion.” 

The letter begins:

As our nation works to defend itself from the deadly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), we write to express our gratitude to you and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for all of its efforts to combat the virus and to ask for your help to ensure that Americans will have access to vaccines that are free from any connection to abortion. 

Sent on Friday, April 17, the open letter was addressed to Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and copied to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar. It was signed by Archbishop of Kansas City and U.S. bishops’ head of pro-life activities Joseph Naumann, Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette, and Archbishop of Oklahoma City Paul Coakley, as well as pro-life leaders from around the United States.  

The signatories thanked the FDA for its efforts to combat the coronavirus and expressed their support for “efforts to develop an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible,” but insisted that “fundamental moral principles” be followed in the development of vaccines without exploiting human life. The letter reads:

To be clear, we strongly support efforts to develop an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible. However, we also strongly urge our federal government to ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited. 

The letter also draws attention to recent federal funding granted to a vaccine development project which is making use of cell lines from an aborted baby. Last month Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Johnson & Johnson) was granted more than $456 million in federal funding for their vaccine project using the PER C6 cell line, which comes from retinal tissue from an aborted baby. The letter notes:

We are aware that, among the dozens of vaccines currently in development, some are being produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies. For example, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has a substantial contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is working on a vaccine that is being produced using one of these ethically problematic cell lines.

Last year the Trump administration removed funding from some projects using fetal tissue from recently aborted babies. The administration also instituted a policy which had the effect of making it more difficult for projects which use human fetal tissue (HFT) from aborted babies to receive federal funding. However, federal funding applications for projects using pre-existing cell lines which come from aborted babies were not impacted by the policy because the policy specifically excluded such cell lines from its definition of research involving HFT.

The letter also stresses that it is “critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically and that “no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience.”

The authors of the letter say that “other vaccines such as those being developed by Sanofi Pasteur, Inovio, and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute utilize cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.”

The vaccine referred to by the signatories as being developed by Sanofi Pasteur is now receiving federal funding of more than $30 million, while Inovio says its project has been made possible thanks to “generous funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.” Sanofi, which has received funding from the Gates Foundation for other projects, says of its work on the coronavirus vaccine that they are “a part of a consortium of 15 healthcare companies alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation working to identify concrete actions that will accelerate treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics.”

The signatories say that “there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines.” 

“Commissioner Hahn, we urgently and respectfully implore you to not only ensure that  Americans will have access to a COVID vaccine that is free of ethical concerns, but to encourage and incentivize pharmaceutical companies to use only ethical cell lines or processes for producing vaccines,” the letter concludes.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER AND SIGNATORIES

Friday, April 17, 2020 

The Honorable Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. Commissioner
U.S. Food and Drug Administration 10903 New Hampshire Avenue 
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002 

Dear Commissioner Hahn, 

As our nation works to defend itself from the deadly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), we write to express our gratitude to you and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for all of its efforts to combat the virus and to ask for your help to ensure that Americans will have access to vaccines that are free from any connection to abortion. 

To be clear, we strongly support efforts to develop an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible. However, we also strongly urge our federal government to ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited. 

We are aware that, among the dozens of vaccines currently in development, some are being produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies. For example, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has a substantial contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is working on a vaccine that is being produced using one of these ethically problematic cell lines. Thankfully, other vaccines such as those being developed by Sanofi Pasteur, Inovio, and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute utilize cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.

It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience. Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines. 

Commissioner Hahn, we urgently and respectfully implore you to not only ensure that Americans will have access to a COVID vaccine that is free of ethical concerns, but to encourage and incentivize pharmaceutical companies to use only ethical cell lines or processes for producing vaccines. 

Sincerely, 

Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann
Archbishop of Kansas City, KS
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities 

Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend 
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Doctrine 

Most Reverend John F. Doerfler
Bishop of Marquette
Chairman, USCCB Subcommittee on Healthcare Issues 

Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley
Archbishop of Oklahoma City
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development 

Joseph Meaney, Ph.D.
President
National Catholic Bioethics Center 

Michael Parker, MD 
President
Catholic Medical Association 

Jeffrey Barrows, DO, MA,
Senior VP Bioethics and Public Policy
Christian Medical & Dental Associations 

Donna J. Harrison MD
Executive Director
American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists 

Michelle Cretella, MD
Executive Director
American College of Pediatricians 

Marianne Linane, RN, MA
Director
National Association of Pro-Life Nurses 

Ellen Gianoli, BSN, PHN, MA, RN
President
National Association of Catholic Nurses, U.S.A. 

Alan Moy MD
Founder and Scientific Director
John Paul II Medical Research Institute
CEO of Cellular Engineering Technologies 

Russell Moore
President
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission 

Debi Vinnedge
President and Executive Director
Children of God for Life 

Jeanne Mancini
President
March for Life Education & Defense Fund 

Tom Brejcha
President and Chief Counsel
Thomas More Society 

Travis S. Weber, J.D., LL.M.
Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs
Family Research Council 

Penny Young Nance
CEO and President
Concerned Women for America LAC 

Michael P. Farris
President, CEO and General Counsel
Alliance Defending Freedom 

Michael Vacca, J.D.
Christ Medicus Foundation 

Bradley L. Hahn, J.D.
CEO
Solidarity HealthShare 

Jonathan Imbody
Director
Freedom2Care 

Kristan Hawkins
President
Students for Life of America 

Lila Rose
President & Founder
Live Action 

CC: President Donald J. Trump 
Vice President Mike Pence 
Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services 


  aborted baby parts, abortion, coronavirus, department of health and human services, fda, hhs, united states conference of catholic bishops, vaccines

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