Following widespread backlash, the University of Pittsburgh tapped a law firm to review its experimentation on aborted babies.
Last month, documents obtained by the Center for Medical Progress showed that the university sought $3 million in 2015 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to become a “distribution hub” for preborn baby parts — procured from abortion facilities in Pittsburgh — for use in medical research.
Among other details, the university revealed an intention to gather 50% of aborted babies from white mothers and 50% from minority mothers — with 25% of the babies coming from black mothers specifically. The Center for Medical Progress noted that Allegheny County — the “major metropolitan area from which Pitt-based abortion practices draw patients” — is 80% white and only 13% black.
The university uses the remains for disturbing experiments — which are approved by several internal medical ethics commissions, including the school’s Institutional Review Board. In one example, researchers grafted the deceased babies’ scalps to rodents for an immunology experiment.
According to the study — published in a prominent medical journal — researchers took “full-thickness human fetal skin” and grafted it over rodents’ rib cages, where the skin had been previously removed. The researchers referred to the result as “humanized rodents.”
In the wake of rebukes from Pennsylvania lawmakers, the university retained law firm Hyman, Phelps & McNamara to review its practices.
“Fetal tissue research is subject to robust internal controls at Pitt and highly regulated at the state and federal level,” the university explained in a statement. “The university routinely conducts reviews to ensure that its research activities — across all areas of research — comply with internal policies as well as all relevant federal and state laws.”
“Pitt has taken this proactive step to ensure that it is positioned to continue leading the way — scientifically, legally and ethically — in practicing and advancing lifesaving research,” added the release.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-PA) — who represents the South Hills of Pittsburgh — confirmed that the university is updating elected officials on the investigation’s findings.
“The review will begin immediately, and a full report will be made available upon completion,” Mihalek said. “As a member of the General Assembly, with responsibilities to the taxpayers, and also a Commonwealth trustee of the university, it is vital that these questions are answered surrounding this.”
State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-PA) — who, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, serves as representative for Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) on the university’s board — dismissed the backlash as “bad faith lies.”
“Faced with a relentless barrage of baseless attacks, the University of Pittsburgh is fighting bad faith lies with openness and honesty,” he said. “I have total confidence that the school will show itself to be what it always has been: a champion for science and research.”