We Don’t Know if Abortion-Free Vaccines Are Possible. Because We Haven’t Really Tried.
Imagine if the COVID vaccine were made using research from Nazi concentration camps, or body parts from victims of unjust police shootings. Would everybody just shrug?
What if most of the critical vaccines we needed to take throughout our lives had been developed using body parts from Uyghur slaves in China? Or victims of police shootings in America? How would Christians react? How should we?
Enslaved Black Women Were Treated as Lab Rats
This isn’t, alas, far-fetched. It turns out that the pioneer of gynecology, James Marion Sims, compiled the basic data for the science in a likewise horrific way. According to History.com:
Sims, who practiced medicine at a time when treating women was considered distasteful and rarely done, invented the vaginal speculum, a tool used for dilation and examination. He also pioneered a surgical technique to repair vesicovaginal fistula, a common 19th-century complication of childbirth in which a tear between the uterus and bladder caused constant pain and urine leakage.
However, Sims didn’t produce these advances using willing patients provided with anesthesia (which already existed). Instead, he operated on black female slaves, with the consent … of their legal masters:
For a long time, Sims’ fistula surgeries were not successful. After 30 operations on one woman, a 17-year-old enslaved woman named Anarcha who had had a very traumatic labor and delivery, he finally “perfected” his method — after four years of experimentation. Afterward, he began to practice on white women, using anesthesia, which was new to the medical field at the time.
While some doctors didn’t trust anesthesia, Sims’ decision to not use it — or any other numbing technique—was based on his misguided belief that Black people didn’t experience pain like white people did.
Sims’ work helped heal millions of women and save countless lives in subsequent decades. Those are good outcomes, of course. But they came at a cost in human dignity to dozens of his enslaved “patients.” Sims treated them as lab rats.
Turning Poor Puerto Rican Women Into Guinea Pigs
Something like this happened again a century later. The developers of the birth control pill, funded by Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood, tested early, dangerously high-dose hormone versions on … poor female farmworkers in Puerto Rico. Some died, but no government body ever investigated.
America isn’t unique in such medical abuses. Some of the anatomical textbooks still used in Germany and Austria are based on the dissections of victims murdered in the Holocaust. So far, most doctors are still unwilling to use the research results Dr. Josef Mengele produced in his hideous death camp experiments. But we wonder how long that taboo will continue to stand.
Because every year thousands of human transplants take place with organs stolen from living victims — Uyghur Muslims and other political prisoners (including Christians) in Chinese concentration camps. Forbes reports that this organ trafficking is a major income stream for the Chinese government.
Okay, What About Vaccines?
In light of all this, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that secular governments blithely accept the abuse of aborted children’s remains in work on human vaccines. The current vice president, Kamala Harris, protected her campaign donor Planned Parenthood from provable charges of selling baby parts. She tried to put the pro-life journalists who exposed that abuse into prison.
But what about Christians and Christian leaders? For the most part, they don’t seem to care about the source of our commonly used vaccines. Every single COVID vaccine now on the market was either developed or tested using cells from aborted babies. Some have claimed these cell lines might have derived from a miscarriage. This defies basic biology. Cells die quickly. As Jose Trasancos explained to us, “Establishing a living cell line from dead tissue is not possible.” These cell lines were not only derived from abortion. The researchers almost surely worked closely with the abortionist to preserve the tissue.
Innocent Blood Cries Out to Heaven for Vengeance
If you want what protection such vaccines offer, you must accept some entailment in the evil of abortion. You’re benefiting from it. If that doesn’t at least trouble your conscience, it should.
We grant that getting viable, human cell lines isn’t easy. There are reasons, beyond just a desire to provide cover for abortion, that researchers use these cell lines. Insect and animal cells can work, but not as well as human cells.
We’ll also grant, as the US bishops and Vatican have, that if you have no other options and are at great risk of death, it could be okay to receive one of these vaccines, under protest. But many Catholics and other Christians have used this permission to dismiss or ignore the moral challenge. As a result, they’ve made it harder for Christians to fight this battle in the future.
What If We Protested Instead?
Imagine if, instead, millions of faithful Christians had, for years, been protesting the continued use of fetal cell lines. What if we were showing up at stockholders’ meetings at Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson to complain? What if, like animal rights activists going after cosmetic companies who use animal testing, we’d made ourselves a nuisance?
What if we had threatened to refuse such vaccines on principle? Isn’t it possible that scientists and drug companies, given such a strong incentive, would by now have found alternatives that do not depend on abortion?
Instead, most Christian thought leaders and pastors have treated the abortion-taint on these drugs as a mere trifle. Some, such as the leaders of the University of Notre Dame, are even mandating the vaccines for all returning students.
As a group, not only have Christians failed to give companies an incentive to find other options. We’re fast on our way to surrendering our future voice and credibility on this issue.
Jay Richards is the Executive Editor of The Stream, a Research Assistant Professor in the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America, and a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”