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February 19, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A number of questions have been directed to LifeSiteNews about an interview I gave with John-Henry Westen on Jan. 12, 2021. I have been asked to address some of those questions, beginning with concerns about the origin of the HEK-293 cell line, which has been used in the development of many of the current COVID vaccine candidates.

Frank Graham, the researcher who developed this line, derived its name from its origin (human embryonic kidney) and also from the method he used to number his experiments (it was his 293rd). In the interview with LifeSite, I made the speculative statement that this cell line could have been the fruit of hundreds of abortions. There are some who have called this supposition into question, claiming that Frank Graham himself has stated that the cell line was based on a single abortion and two experiments. Therefore, it is alleged, the statement that only one abortion was involved is the correct one, and this affects the moral nature of the decision whether to use these abortion-tainted vaccines. 

There are several facets of this line of reasoning that should be addressed. The first is what is involved in developing a cell line.

When a cell line is developed (whether it is a human cell line or an animal cell line), it is usually produced using a sample of tissue from a single individual (exceptions are hybrid cell lines). Thus, on the one hand, it is technically correct to say the cell line was developed using one aborted baby.  However, this is not an accurate representation of how many lives were actually sacrificed in the whole process of developing an aborted fetal cell line. 

An analogy may be helpful here. Suppose I bake a cake for a friend’s birthday party. I’m not a terribly good baker, so the first attempt flops because I included the wrong amount of flour. Then I try a second time to bake a cake and forget to add the baking soda; this cake doesn’t rise, and I have to throw it out. Perhaps the third attempt gets knocked onto the floor by a toddler. Finally, on the fourth try, I manage to produce an edible confection. Now, it would technically be true if I said the cake required exactly the amount of ingredients that I put into the fourth cake, but it would be more accurate (especially if I was having to account for things in the family budget) to admit that the raw materials required included those of the three failed cakes as well.

Unfortunately, as John-Henry Westen so recently documented, it is not uncommon for vaccine researchers to dissimulate in a similar way on the use of aborted fetal tissue in their research. Dr. Stanley Plotkin, who gave a nine-hour deposition on his work with aborted fetal tissue in vaccines, has publicly claimed that only two abortions were involved in the creation of the cell lines that are used in vaccines. While not technically an overt lie, the assertion ignores the other 74 aborted fetuses who were used in the experiments conducted by Dr. Plotkin himself as he worked on developing aborted fetal cell–derived vaccines. In essence, he is counting only the abortions that went into the “finished product” and not those that were involved in the research and development that made the cell lines possible. This misleads those who are trying to make evaluations of the gravity of using these cell lines. 

The assertion that HEK-293 was developed using only one aborted baby is equally imprecise. Frank Graham’s notebooks from his time at the University of Leiden are not published, but there are clues in other published research papers that his work involved more than just the final specimen from whom HEK-293 was derived. A paper from 2002, for example, discusses experiments done in HEK-218 and HER-224 (human embryonic retina), both of which were attributed to Mr. Graham and follow his naming scheme. At this time, it is unknown exactly how many babies were aborted for his research, and it will likely remain unknown to the public unless Mr. Graham decides to release his notebooks.

The use of multiple aborted babies to develop cell lines (due to multiple failed attempts to produce something viable and sufficiently robust) has been routinely documented.  Many aborted fetal cell lines (and all the aborted fetal cell lines used in currently licensed vaccines) are the culmination of a series of experiments that included multiple aborted fetuses. This information is published in full on the Children of God for Life website, but a brief list will suffice for our purposes:

  1. The WI-38 cell line (used in MMR and shingles vaccines) came from the 32nd baby who was used in a series of experiments. Other cell lines that came out of the Wistar Institute include WI-26 (from the 20th baby) and WI-44 cell (from the 38th baby).
  2. The MRC-5 line (used in hepatitis A, measles, and shingles vaccines) required 5 abortions to develop.
  3. WALVAX2, the most recent aborted fetal cell line, came from the 9th aborted baby in a series.
  4. RA273, which is the virus used in the rubella vaccine, originated in the 27th baby that was aborted in search of the virus. Mothers who were infected with the rubella virus during pregnancy were actively encouraged to abort their children. Forty more elective abortions of rubella-exposed babies were performed after this, though RA273 was the strain that ended up in the final vaccine preparation.

Though the number of abortions involved in producing these cell lines should appall us, it deserves some emphasis here that a single abortion is all that is required to make a cell line’s origin illicit. We should not delude ourselves that fewer abortions make something more acceptable. As I am not a moral theologian, I refer the reader to the statements issued by Father Phil Wolfe, Father Chad Ripperger, Father Michael Copenhagen, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider on this subject. This is a point of immense importance with Catholics —– it is insufficient to claim that participation in the abortion process is “material” and “remote” when the byproducts of these abortions are accepted and used.

Another issue that has been raised with the use of aborted fetal cells in COVID vaccines is the idea that this will somehow not cause sufficient scandal for the use to be prohibited to the faithful, and it certainly will not engender expanding use of aborted fetuses in vaccine research. Regrettably, this simply is not the case. 

The use of aborted fetal cell lines in medical research, at any level, fuels a growing acceptance of using aborted babies in other types of medical research — both in terms of the amount of research being done and in the escalation of its monstrosity. This problem is irrespective of the original number of abortions committed to obtain a cell line and will only be exacerbated by the acceptance of HEK-293-derived COVID vaccines. 

A few examples should suffice, though many more could be noted:

  1. There is a long history of new aborted fetal cell lines that have been developed to replace older, senescing cell lines (aborted fetal cell lines do die out and are not truly immortal). IMR-90 and IMR-91, developed in the late ’70s and early ’80s, are designer cell lines that were obtained from abortions in order to mimic WI-38 and MRC-5. WALVAX2, which was developed in 2015, aimed to offer researchers a replacement to these same two cell lines, which were now either dwindling in supply or hard to obtain internationally. 
  2. The growing use of aborted fetal cell lines leads to interest in embryonic stem (E.S.) cell research, which involves the continued creation and destruction of human life. An article in Scientific American reported: “[O]ff-the-shelf fetal cell lines are of limited use for scientists because they do not faithfully mimic native tissue and represent only a subset of cell types: WI-38 and MRC-5, for example, were derived from fetal lungs. The lines can also accumulate mutations after replicating in vitro over time.” In 2018, after one federal contract for human fetal tissue was terminated, 64 medical and scientific institutions signed a plea to Congress to not disrupt their fetal tissue supply.
  3. Legislation allowing research with aborted fetal tissue and E.S. cells has expanded significantly in recent decades. In 1993, President Clinton overturned a five-year ban on aborted fetal tissue research. In 2001, President Bush opened up the field of embryonic stem (E.S.) cell research by allowing experimentation with “already existing embryos.” In 2009, President Obama loosened restrictions on E.S. cell research even further, allowing researchers to purposefully obtain more E.S. cells. The executive orders of both Bush and Obama permitted federal funding for E.S. cell research; in the meantime, universities were already finding ways around governmental legislation that restricted the research and were using E.S. cells regardless of the federal regulations. 
  4. Gallup polls indicate that the percentage of the U.S. population that thinks E.S. cell research is morally acceptable has risen by 14% from 2002 to 2020 — with now almost a third of all Americans having no problem with the research. 
  5. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly been accused of trafficking tissue from abortions conducted at its facilities, and regardless of whether the corporation is “profiting” from such tissue, it is certainly supplying it to researchers under the guise of “tissue donation.”
  6. Aborted fetal tissue is now being used in experiments that would be unethical to perform on living human beings and can only be described as monstrously grotesque: making “humanized” mice to conduct experiments on long-term organ damage in disease models.  According to a 2015 report in Scientific American, “Every month, Lishan Su receives a small test tube on ice from a company in California. In it is a piece of liver from a human fetus aborted at between 14 and 19 weeks of pregnancy.” In research published by Yash Agarwal, et al. in 2020, aborted fetal skin, scalps, liver, thymus, and spleen are being harvested and grafted onto mice. The images of baby hair on the animals’ backs, which were published as part of the research paper, are deeply disturbing. 

There are two other points regarding Mr. Graham’s reported testimony on HEK-293 that deserve mention: the fact that the cells he used for his experiment were in the freezer at the time of his arrival in the lab and that it was his understanding that the abortion had been performed for “therapeutic purposes” because abortion was not legal in the country at the time. Neither of these facts changes the nature of the HEK-293 cell line or its questionable moral status

In particular, the fact that the cells were stored in the freezer lends further credence to the conclusion that HEK-293 was derived from an electively aborted fetus. The success and longevity of HEK-293 suggests that the specimen was remarkably well suited for culturing. Because of the biological impossibility of creating a live cell line from dead tissue, and the practical and biological implausibility of obtaining live tissue from a spontaneously aborted (miscarried) fetus, it is far more likely that the baby from whom HEK-293 was derived was electively aborted and alive at the time of tissue extraction — or at most just moments deceased. In an interview given for ALL, Dr. C. Ward Kischer, an embryologist and emeritus professor of anatomy from the University of Arizona College of Medicine, stated the following regarding the cells obtained for aborted fetal cell lines: “In order to sustain 95% of the cells, the live tissue would need to be preserved within 5 minutes of the abortion[.] … [W]ithin an hour the cells would continue to deteriorate, rendering the specimen useless.”

Finally, I know there have also been a number of questions directed to LifeSite about the C-section abortions, and this ties into Mr. Graham’s statement about therapeutic abortions. I will quote directly from an article from Children of God for life that includes sections of scientific articles describing how these “therapeutic” abortions are performed:

[T]he scientists noted that these were intact fetuses (not embryos by the way since most were well beyond the embryonic stage of development).  As in the NY abortions that were obtained via C-section, so were those performed in Boston’s Lying-in/Women’s Hospital in the late 1940s to early 1950s.

According to Drs Enders and Wells, who won the Nobel Prize for their polio research:

It was obtained under sterile precautions at the time of abdominal hysterotomy for therapeutic indications. Embryos of between 12 and 18 weeks gestation have been utilized. Rarely tissues were obtained from stillborn fetuses, or from premature infants at autopsy…In the experiments on prolonged propagation of virus three sorts of embryonic materials were used: elements of skin, connective tissue, and muscle; intestinal tissue; brain tissue. Embryonic tissues were prepared in the following manner. Whenever possible the embryo was removed from the amniotic sac under sterile precautions, transferred to a sterile towel and kept at 5 C until dissected. [11]

To further explain, the type of abortion performed — “abdominal hysterotomy” — which is a type of C-Section — not a hysterectomy — was a dead giveaway as to what these doctors were doing. According to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, because abdominal hysterotomy is considered a major surgery and not a routine method of terminating an early pregnancy they noted, “It is only done in special circumstances such as when sterilization is required in addition to the termination of pregnancy, as in the case of cardiac disease, diabetes, TB or mental disease. [emphasis added] Otherwise it is employed after the second trimester.”

Dr. Gonzalo Herranz, Professor of Histology and General Embryology at the University of Navarra, Spain, who is a staunch pro-life advocate and adamantly opposes such research, describes how the abortions should ideally be done when fetal material is utilized:

“The correct way consists in having recourse to Caesarian section or to the removal of the uterus. Only in this way can bacteriological sterility be guaranteed. In either case, then, to obtain embryo cells for culture, a programmed abortion must be adopted, choosing the age of the embryo and dissecting it while still alive to remove tissues to be placed in culture media.” [12] 

Citation 11: Thomas H. Weller, John F. Enders, Frederick C. Robbins and Marguerite B. Stoddard; Studies on the Cultivation of Poliomyelitis Viruses in Tissue Culture : I. The Propagation of Poliomyelitis Viruses in Suspended Cell Cultures of Various Human Tissue; Journal of Immunology 1952;69;645-671

Citation 12: Pietro Croce, MD, Vivisection or Science — a choice to make, Fetal Experimentation-Over the top; Part 1, p. 99-108.CIVIS, 1991, Hans Ruesch Foundation

Because of the necessity of maintaining a sterile culture of tissue for developing a cell line, it seems reasonable to conclude that there would — at minimum — had to have been some pre-arrangement to obtain sterile, unmacerated tissue from the fetus used for HEK-293. The easiest and surest way to do this is by the surgical method of whole-fetus extraction I described in my interview that is referenced and cited above. 

As Catholics, we must hold fast to the instruction that we have an obligation to oppose the moral evil of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines. I will close with the words of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which so clearly teaches what our response should be to aborted fetal vaccines in its explanation of the petition to “deliver us from evil” given to us in the Our Father (emphasis added):

The faithful should be encouraged to use this salutary manner of praying and to imitate the example of the Prophet.  And at the same time their attention should be called to the marked difference that exists between the prayers of the infidel and those of the Christian.

The infidel, too, begs of God to cure his diseases and to heal his wounds, to deliver him from approaching or impending evils; but he places his principal hope of deliverance in the remedies provided by nature, or prepared by man.  He makes no scruple of using medicine no matter by whom prepared, no matter if accompanied by charms, spells or other diabolical arts, provided he can promise himself some hope of recovery.

Not so the Christian.  When visited by sickness, or other adversity, he flies to God as his supreme refuge and defense.  Acknowledging and revering God alone as the author of all his good and his deliverer he ascribes to Him whatever healing virtue resides in medicines, convinced that they help the sick only in so far as God wills it.  For it is God who has given medicines to man to heal his corporal infirmities; and hence these words of Ecclesiasticus: The most High hath created medicines out of the earth, and a wise man will not abhor them.  He, therefore, who has pledged his fidelity to Jesus Christ, does not place his principal hope of recovery in such remedies; he places it in God, the author of these medicines.

Hence the Sacred Scriptures condemn the conduct of those who, confiding in the power of medicine, seek no assistance from God [2 Chron 16:12]. Nay more, those who regulate their lives by the laws of God, abstain from the use of all medicines which are not evidently intended by God to be medicinal; and, were there even a certain hope of recovery by using any other, they abstain from them as so many charms and diabolical artifices. [Emphasis added]

It should require no special pleading to establish that God did not intend the bodies of murdered babies to be used for medicine. So let us abstain from these abortion-tainted vaccines and not be guilty of refusing to follow the laws of God.