The Trump administration said Wednesday it is notifying the University of California that a federally funded research contract that uses fetuses from elective abortions will not be renewed - the latest pro-life push by the administration.
As for external grant applications that would use this tissue, HHS said they will be subject to review from an ethics advisory board to determine "whether, in light of the ethical considerations, NIH should fund the research project".
HHS adds that it "is continuing to review whether adequate alternatives exist to the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions in HHS-funded research and will ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated".
The Department of Health and Human Services says its decision to place new restrictions on the use of human fetal tissue in medical research follows a review that began last September of HHS research involving such tissue.
Scientists were incensed."I think it's ultimately a awful, nonsensical policy", said Larry Goldstein, distinguished professor in the University of California San Diego's department of cellular and molecular medicine, who has advised scientific groups that use fetal tissue.
The ban affects only research being done at labs sponsored by the National Institute of Health and doesn't affect private funding.
"Fetal tissue taken from elective abortions has been used in research over many years", NPR's Richard Harris reports.
Thedecision to tighten federal support for an ideologically polarizing aspect of medical researchwas made by President Trump himself, according to a source familiar with the decision-making.
Wednesday's announcement turns on its head an assurance to scientists late previous year at an invitation-only NIH workshop on fetal tissue research.
Extramural research grants - for research outside of NIH institutions - will not now be affected during their contract period, but new applications or renewed contracts will be subjected to a strict review by an ethics review board.
"Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump's administration", wrote the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
As part of the the administration's fetal tissue review, officials at the White House, HHS, and the NIH have focused on the contentious question of whether there are effective alternatives to fetal tissue in such research.
"It is outrageous and disgusting that we have been complicit, through our taxpayer dollars, in the experimentation using baby body parts", Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement.
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, joined the pro-life support for the decision, arguing the practice of fetal tissue research is immoral.
Scientists use fetal tissue to create "humanized mouse models" - animals that have cells and tissues that mimic those of humans.
Last September, the department had also canceled a contract with a California firm, Advanced Bioscience Resources, which was a main supplier of fetal tissue implanted into laboratory mice. The development of vaccines against polio, rubella, measles, chickenpox, adenovirus, and rabies all involved fetal tissue, as did the discovery of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, and hemophilia.