It sounds blunt, but it’s no less accurate. According to national media, the cocktail of antibodies that President Donald Trump received to survive his COVID-19 infection, which was touted last week as a “cure” for the virus, was developed using cells derived from aborted fetal tissue.
Synthesized by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the treatment that allowed the president to recover in record time from an infection that has killed more than 200,000 people in the country is a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies, still in the testing stage and not approved by the FDA, according to CBS News.
The president described the experimental therapeutic for the coronavirus as “the key” during a five-minute video posted on Twitter last Wednesday.
“I think this was a blessing from God that I caught [the virus], I think it was a blessing in disguise,” Mr. Trump said in the video. “I caught it, I heard about this drug, I said, ‘Let me take it’ … and it was incredible the way it worked.
However, the president’s hypocrisy was not overlooked by those who have fought for decades to save Roe v. Wade and the right of women to decide about their own bodies.
The antibody cocktail the President received is in total opposition to his administration’s positions against abortion and fetal cell research.
According to a Regeneron spokesperson, the drug’s potency was tested in a lab using HEK 293T cells. That cell line was initially derived from the kidney tissue of a fetus aborted in the Netherlands in the 1970s. The cells “were used in testing the antibody candidates’ ability to neutralize the virus” and helped researchers “determine the ‘best’ two antibodies, which now make up the REGN-COV2 cocktail,” the spokesperson said.
Although no fetal tissue is present in the final product, the Trump administration said last year that it would no longer support long-standing funding for medical research using human fetal tissue, which was received as a major victory by anti-abortion groups, according to CBS.
Government officials argued that whatever the scientific benefits, there was a “pressing moral imperative” to find alternative research methods, the New York Times recalled.
“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement released at the time.
However, not only the antiviral drug that the President received, Remdesivir, was developed with these cell lines. At least two companies rushing to create a vaccine against coronavirus, Moderna and AstraZeneca, also rely on cells. Johnson & Johnson is testing its vaccine on another so-called cell line produced initially from fetal tissue, the Times added.
Scientific products made using cell lines that existed before then “would not imply the administration’s policy on the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions,” one official said.
Some scientists saw a double standard in the president’s endorsement. “Hypocrisy has never bothered the man, as near as I can tell,” Lawrence Goldstein, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, who has used fetal tissue in his research, said of the president.
Dr. Deepak Srivastava, a pediatric cardiologist who led the International Society for Stem Cell Research until July, said, “If they oppose this research, they should be willing not to take a drug that was developed using that.”