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Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

Elective Abortions: Material for Research?

July 17th, 2017 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

By Guest Blogger Keegan D’Alfonso

There is an unintended irony in a recent study reported in the journal Nature on the immunology of fetuses in the womb. Researchers in Singapore studied tissue from 100 elective second-trimester abortions. In the process, they uncovered details of a fascinating mechanism that permits the immune system of a developing baby to develop, but not attack its mother. The irony lies in the fact that the scientists found such a way that babies can remain safe in the womb, even though these particular babies were aborted.

The study may help scientists to better understand certain types of miscarriages and a deadly immune response in premature babies, and may also help to treat autoimmune diseases in adults. With autoimmune diseases affecting an increasing number of people worldwide, this seems like a reasonable goal, but at what price?

The dilemma, of course, is that the research used tissue from elective late-term abortions. Was permission to study this tissue obtained before or after the procedure? Did the possibility of research on the “products of conception” give further incentives for the abortion itself?

Doctors have a duty to study ways to cure illnesses, but they also have a duty to protect the dignity of life. The debate on abortion aside, a human life, even an unborn one, should never be reduced to disposable parts. Where is the line between a doctor’s duty of care and his or her duty to protect life?

Research Report Summary

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