Fetal Tissue Research and Christian Bioethics:
A Review of the Scientific Developments, Policy Landscape, and Ethical Considerations
(Updated May 3, 2022)

Editorial Introduction

Edward R. Grant, JD, MA; Michael J. Sleasman, PhD; Heather Zeiger, MS, MA

I. Overview and Legislative Background

1. Fetal Tissue Research: Enduring Controversy, New Contexts
Edward R. Grant, JD, MA

2. Regulation of Human Fetal Tissue Research in the United States
David A. Prentice, PhD

3. Trafficking in Fetal Tissue: Regulatory and Policy Considerations
Michelle Kirtley, PhD

II. Ethics of Fetal Tissue Research

4. The Ethics of Fetal Tissue Research: Catholic Perspective
Edward R. Grant, JD, MA

5. Fetal Tissue Research: An Orthodox Christian Approach
Matthew Vest, PhD

6. The Ethics of Human Fetal Tissue Research: An Evangelical Approach
Josh Wester, MDiv

III. Science of Human Fetal Tissue

7. The Science of Human Fetal Tissue Research
Maria B. Feeney, PhD; Tara Sander Lee, PhD

8. Alternatives to Using Aborted Fetal Tissue for Research
Tara Sander Lee, PhD; David A. Prentice, PhD

IV. Appendices

Appendix 1: Paige Cunningham’s Congressional Testimony

Maria B. Feeney, PhD is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute and currently serves as a scientific consultant near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has trained and worked in the areas of chemistry, biochemistry, bioanalytical chemistry, pharmaceutics, and biotechnology. Her interests include proteomics, post-translational modifications of proteins, oxidative stress, diabetes, mass spectrometry, and chromatography. As a Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellow at The University of Kansas, she completed specialized training in leadership, communication, public policy, and business, alongside colleagues from a variety of disciplines in science, engineering, and the humanities.

Dr. Feeney earned her PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from The University of Kansas and her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, with a minor in Philosophy, from Saint Louis University. She has conducted laboratory research at various academic institutions and in the biotechnology industry.

Edward R. Grant, JD is an attorney with 35 years of experience in the field of law and medical ethics. He holds an AB, magna cum laude, from Georgetown University, a JD cum laude from the Northwestern University School of Law, and an MA in Moral Theology from the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. He formerly served as President and as a board member at Americans United for Life, and as Counsel to the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In addition to his current work as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, he has been an adjunct professor since 2003 at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University School of Medicine and sits on the board of advisors for CBHD. He has published in a wide range of professional journals, including the Oregon Law Review; Law, Medicine & Health Care; the Journal of Legal Medicine; and the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, and Public Policy, as well as in several issues of Dignitas. He has been a lecturer and panelist at numerous law schools in the United States and abroad, and before professional groups including the American Society for Bioethics & Humanities.

Michelle Kirtley, PhD is a Bioethics and Public Policy Associate for The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity. She also serves as a Trustee for the Center for Public Justice, a Washington-based faith and public policy organization and has written numerous articles in bioethics policy, health policy, and politics for their weekly newsletter Capital Commentary, where she serves as associate editor.

Dr. Kirtley completed her doctorate in cell biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2004) and her undergraduate degree in molecular biology from Princeton University (1996). Prior to joining the Center’s team, Michelle worked for six years on Capitol Hill for Congressman Dave Weldon, MD (R-FL) and Congressman John Fleming, MD (R-LA), serving as a science and health policy advisor. During her tenure with Congressman Weldon, she was responsible for overseeing the Congressman’s legislative efforts in biotechnology policy, including legislation to ban human cloning, ban fetus farming, and limit the scope of human gene patents. During the healthcare reform debates of 2009–2010, Michelle advised Congressman Fleming on his legislative and communications strategy, drafting alternative healthcare reform proposals, speeches, opinion editorials, and constituent communications.

David A. Prentice, PhD is Vice President and Research Director for the Charlotte Lozier Institute. He is also Adjunct Professor of Molecular Genetics at the John Paul II Institute, The Catholic University of America, and was a Founding Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center in Kansas. In 2020, he was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of HHS to the federal Human Fetal Tissue Ethics Advisory Board. Dr. Prentice has over 40 years’ experience as a scientific researcher and professor, including previous service as senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council, Professor of Life Sciences and Acting Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Indiana State University, and Adjunct Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics at Indiana University School of Medicine. He is an internationally recognized expert on stem cell research, cell biology, and bioethics, and has provided scientific lectures and policy briefings in 40 states and 21 countries, as well as testimony before numerous domestic and international legislative and governmental bodies. He has published and lectured extensively on stem cells, fetal tissue research, gene editing, cloning, embryology, cell culture and vaccines, bioethics, and public policy, and has been interviewed in virtually all major electronic and print media outlets, including CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CSPAN, Reuters, AP, NPR, USA Today, BBC, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.

Dr. Prentice received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Kansas and did his post-doctoral work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He established Stem Cell Research Facts, an educational website providing scientific facts and patient-centered videos about adult stem cells and is a founding member of Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, and an advisory board member for the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

Tara Sander Lee, PhD is the Senior Fellow and Director of Life Sciences at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. She is a scientist with 20 years’ experience in academic and clinical medicine with an emphasis on the cause of pediatric disease. She obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from the Medical College of Wisconsin and fellowship training at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Sander Lee was an appointed faculty member at the Medical College of Wisconsin for over 15 years, where she directed a research lab investigating congenital heart disease in children and served as Scientific Director of Molecular Diagnostics at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Dr. Sander Lee is published in various medical journals and textbooks, including her recent co-authored manuscript in the journal Issues in Law and Medicine, “The Perinatal Revolution.” Dr. Sander Lee has been the primary investigator or co-investigator on several awarded grants. She also served as molecular pathology inspector for the College of American Pathologists and scientific consultant for various entities, including the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and TAI Diagnostics.

Michael J. Sleasman, PhD is Associate Professor of Bioethics and Director of Bioethics Degree Programs at Trinity Graduate School. Prior to joining the Trinity faculty full-time, Dr. Sleasman served as the managing director and research scholar at The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity for 12 years where he oversaw the Center’s research agenda and online resource development. He also previously served as an affiliate professor, adjunct instructor, and online course tutor at the college and graduate level in the areas of philosophy, theology, ethics, and cultural engagement. His areas of research specialization include the theological engagement of bioethical issues with particular emphasis on biotechnology, other emerging technologies, and human futures, as well as the intersection of technology, ethics, and culture in general.

Dr. Sleasman is the editor of Ethics & Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics, published by Trinity Graduate School, and serves on the Board of Reference for the Christian Institute on Disability for Joni & Friends and as a consulting editor for the Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability. He has been interviewed on a range of bioethical issues by print and radio media and has delivered workshops, lectures, and presentations for churches, universities, and at several professional societies. He and his wife, Cindy, have three children.

Matthew S. Vest, PhD is Senior Lecturer & Assistant Director of Education Programs in the Division of Bioethics, Department of Biomedical Education and Anatomy, College of Medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Vest teaches various bioethics courses in the Undergraduate Minor and Master of Arts programs in Bioethics. He received his PhD in Theology and Religious Studies from University of Nottingham, and has authored, edited, and peer-reviewed journal articles for various publication including Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Christian Bioethics, and Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics. Dr. Vest is a member of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity, and the Center for Bioethics and the Center for Ethics and Human Values at The Ohio State University.

Joshua B. Wester, MDiv, ThM served as Director of Content and Chair of Research in Christian Ethics at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He holds an MDiv from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a ThM in Public Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His interests include politics, theology, philosophy, and culture. He frequently writes and speaks on these topics in various forums. Among other outlets, his writing has been featured by National Review, The Federalist, Providence, and The Gospel Coalition, and Public Discourse, and he recently started the Free Church, Free State Podcast. Josh is married to McCaffity, and they have two children.

Heather Zeiger, MS, MA is Research Analyst at The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity where she updates bioethics.com and writes for Dignitas and the CBHD.org website. Ms. Zeiger has been a freelance science writer for the last twelve years. She has worked as a writer, project manager, and editor for various organizations including the Texas Society of Pathologists, Revolution Preparatory, and Uworld. She is currently working on a project with the Mayo Clinic. She is a regular contributor for Mind Matters News, an online publication by The Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence. Her articles have appeared in Salvo Magazine, Breaking Ground, The New Atlantis, MercatorNet, Christian Research Journal, Relevant, and TCU Endeavors, as well as over 100 articles at PhysOrg and Medical Xpress. Prior to becoming a freelance science writer in 2010, Ms. Zeiger worked as a teacher and tutor with a national test prep company and as research associate with Probe Ministries.

Ms. Zeiger received a BS in chemistry, magna cum laude, and an MS in chemistry from The University of Texas at Dallas with a focus on synthesis and materials. She received an MA, magna cum laude, in bioethics from Trinity International University. Her capstone was on performance enhancement in sports. As a student, she interned at CBHD and worked on the Christian BioWiki website.

ABR - Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc.
AMA - American Medical Association
BLT - bone marrow, liver, thymus, e.g. BLT mice
CDF - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
CMP - Center for Medical Progress
CMS - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
FTR - fetal tissue research
HEK - human embryonic kidney, e.g. HEK293 cells
hESCs - human embryonic stem cells
HeLa - continuous cell line named after Henrietta Lacks
HHS - Department of Health and Human Services
hiPSCs - human induced pluripotent stem cells
HIS - human immune system, e.g., HIS mice
HFT - human fetal tissue
iPSCs - induced pluripotent stem cells
LoM - lung-only mouse
NBB - NeuroBioBank
NIH - National Institutes of Health
NMDP - National Marrow Donor Program
OPOs - organ procurement organizations
PBMCs - peripheral blood mononuclear cells
TPOs - tissue procurement organizations