EDITORIAL: Fetal-tissue ban just another base-pleaser
In title, Donald Trump is president of the United States.
In reality, Donald Trump is president of the 30-plus percent of voters who dependably support him.
It is to this faction that Trump directs his reality-averse Twitter messages, his conservative-media abetted misinformation campaigns and, most alarmingly, his presidential powers.
From upending international efforts to slow the causes of climate change, to pardoning a rightfully convicted Arizona sheriff who flouted Civil Rights laws, to churlishly causing the longest-ever government shutdown, Trump looks no farther than opinion polls among his supporters.
The latest example came just last week when the president abruptly banned government-funded medical research that uses human fetal tissue.
One needn’t look hard to find the beneficiaries of this mindless maneuver.
“Ending the use of fetal tissue by the National Institutes of Health has been a priority for anti-abortion activists, a core element of President Donald Trump’s political base,” ABC News reported.
Pleasing the base; that’s always priority number one with this president.
Never mind the past, like the deadly epidemic of German measles in the mid-1960s, which will never be repeated because a vaccine was developed from an experimental fetal cell line.
Never mind the present, in which millions of Americans are protected ever year against diseases like chicken pox, hepatitis A and rabies thanks to vaccines developed through fetal embryo cells.
And never mind the future, in which diseases like HIV and Alzheimer’s will surely persist absent the type of study now under way by scientists using fetal cell lines.
Magnifying that final point, the administration also canceled a multimillion-dollar contract with the University of California at San Francisco, which was to work with National Institutes of Health to test potential HIV therapies.
Some fetal stem cell work will, thankfully, carry on in privately funded institutions. And the Health and Human Services Department says that, for the time being at least, government-funded research will continue as well — a not-so-tacit acknowledgment of the important role it plays in saving lives.
In fact, even NIH Director Francis Collins — the government’s top medical scientist — lauded the benefits and necessity of fetal tissue research as recently as last December.
But the president doesn’t listen to people like Dr. Collins — a mere physician-geneticist. He listens to the hosannas reliably echoed in his favorite right-wing media outlets. And those hosannas echo all the louder when he performs for them.
“This was the president’s decision,” White House spokesman Judd Deere confirmed to the Washington Post — although the fingerprints of Vice President Mike Pence, a rabid abortion opponent who stumped for Trump Thursday at a Springettsbury Township packing company, are said to be on the new policy as well.
As is so often the case with this administration, the decision is heavy on downside.
“I think it’s ultimately a terrible, nonsensical policy,” University of California at San Diego professor Larry Goldstein told the Post. “Valuable research that is directed at helping to develop therapies for terrible diseases will be stopped. And tissue that would be used will be thrown out instead.”
The victory, if that’s what it’s to be called, is little more than ideological.
“This type of research involves the gross violation of basic human rights and certainly the government has no business funding it,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the anti-abortion March for Life, ignoring the fact that not all fetal tissue is the result of abortion.
Ignoring facts, of course, is what this president does best. That and playing to his base.
This “terrible, nonsensical policy,” as Goldstein aptly describes it, is just the latest example.