New documents obtained by Judicial Watch reveal that the University of Pittsburgh asked the federal government for help dealing with negative media reports over its harvesting of fetal organs for experimentation.
Calling the critical coverage “an organized attempt to delegitimize science,” Pitt Vice Chancellor for science strategy and planning Dr. Jeremy Berg wrote to then-head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, asking for his help to combat “efforts to undermine important science using fetal tissue.”
“We feel that the scientific community would benefit if more institutions could stand together to take some of the power out of the one at-a-time strategy that appears to be operating,” Berg wrote to Collins.
Berg claimed that the press had been pursuing a series of “rotating attacks” against universities that use fetal tissue derived from abortion, saying that Pitt was the latest target. The school had been under fire for experiments that involved grafting infant scalps onto lab rats and allegations about utilizing organs from full-term and past-term infants. Some medical experts suspected Pitt researchers may have obtained organs from still-living babies.
On October 17, while Collins was still running the department, current NIH Director, Lawrence Tabak, replied that a meeting to brainstorm ways to combat negative media had been arranged with the deputy director for extramural research. Tabak added that he was blind copying Collins on the message.
Judicial Watch obtained the email after a group of nearly 100 Congress members made a FOIA request to discover whether Pitt used federal money to fund research on tissue obtained from illegal abortions. Pitt has consistently maintained that it has complied with all federal and state laws.
The email suggests that Collins, who has been touted as pro-life and a “Christian who loves the Lord” in evangelical media circles, was aware of Pitt’s tissue-harvesting practices and willing to help defend them. The messages between Berg and the NIH undercut the claims of unnamed sources in the organization who told conservative talk show host Erick Erickson that the Biden Administration’s top science advisor may not have been aware of or approved of such experimentation.
Though Collins had not spoken about Pitt’s fetal tissue research publicly, in private, he defended it at an October event at the University of Chicago hosted by Christianity Today’s public theologian, Russell Moore. In a leaked audio recording obtained by The Daily Wire, Collins responded to a student’s question about the ethics of Pitt’s harvesting of fetal organs by saying it can be a moral good.
“Pregnancy termination is, at the present time, legal in the United States,” Collins argued. “Whether you’re in support of it or not, it’s happened … The material from those elective abortions is discarded.”
Collins went on to say that fetal tissue research can be “extremely valuable in understanding how life works, how development happens, and how to treat certain diseases like Parkinson’s disease.”