The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is set to receive more than $151 million in state funding following efforts by Pennsylvania House Republicans to end the school’s horrific fetal tissue research practices.
Last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved an amendment blocking taxpayer funding for Pitt unless the state-linked university agrees under oath to no longer conduct experiments using fetal tissue obtained by elective abortions. The university’s fetal tissue is largely sourced from nearby UPMC Magee-Womens (Magee) Hospital, which performs more voluntary and medically induced abortions than any other hospital in the state.
The day after the amendment was introduced, a group of PA House Democrats held a press conference to express their strong disapproval. Leading the charge against the amendment was Rep. Sara Innamorato, who rejected attempts to stop “vital and vital research” to her foster mother.
His feelings were echoes by Rep. Austin Davis, a 2012 Pitt graduate who is functioning as the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and Rep. Dan Frankel, former Gov. Tom Wolf appointed on the Pitt board.
On Wednesday night, the House voted to pass Pitt’s annual appropriations, with half of the Republican members damn funding. The financial restriction for engaging in research using elective abortions was added to a separate bill that passed almost completely on party lines.
Opposition from conservative lawmakers to providing Pitt with financial support grew after the 2020 publication of a taxpayer-funded immunology study in which university researchers grafted fetal scalps into mice and rats. The disturbing project prompted a House health committee audience on fetal experimentation last May.
Pitt came under national scrutiny three months later when Judicial Watch published a 2015 grant application Pitt sent to the National Institutes of Health that led to allegations of live fetal abortions at Magee for ” ensure biological specimens of the highest quality”. The university receives significant funding from the NIH which has steadily increased over the past decade.
Judicial Watch caused further headaches at the university in April in developer records showing that Pitt’s Associate Senior Vice Chancellor for Science Strategy, Dr. Jeremy Berg, contacted then-NIH Director Francis Collins to seek help in combating “efforts to undermining important science using fetal tissue”. Berg served director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH from 2003 to 2011.
Frustration with Pitt’s science version is not exclusive to state officials. In May, 89 Republican members of Congress from across the country sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting a full investigation of Pitt’s fetal tissue research. Inspector General Christi Grimm responded to the request by indicating that his office will “follow up accordingly” and that a special agent has been assigned to the case.
A statement provided by Rep. Innamorato’s office suggests that a review of fetal tissue research has already taken place and found no evidence of wrongdoing. This is based on a flawed survey paid for by Pitt and conducted by a college graduate last fall. The report demonstrated a failure to explore “clinical decision-making” and “medical care delivery” at Magee and incorrectly identified the source of fetal parts for the humanized rodent study as a California-based wholesaler.
Pitt’s appropriations bill is expected to get final approval from Governor Wolf. The pro-abortion Democrat was undeterred by the fetal tissue controversy when he teamed up with Magee last November to show off his administration’s efforts to improve maternal health services.
Both the university and Wolf will be shooting for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro in the upcoming November election. The state attorney general has made his steadfast support for expanded abortion rights a main problem of his campaign. The future of Pitt’s gruesome fetal tissue research also hangs in the balance.
Ryan Navarro is a therapist in Pittsburgh who previously interned and worked at UPMC.