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Although opponents of fetal tissue transplants have often conflated the two, tissue from family planning aboritons may be used without implying approval of abortions to produce tissue.
If fetal tissue transplants do occur, questions about the timing, substance, and process of consent must be addressed, as well as the role of nonprofit and for-profit agencies in retrieving and distributing fetal tissue.
Even persons opposed to abortion might agree that perceptions of complicity should not determine public policy on fetal tissue transplants.
In either case, the connection is too tenuous and speculative to ban organ or fetal tissue transplants.
In sum, fetal tissue transplants are practically and morally separate from decisions to end unwanted pregnancy.
In any case, the fear that fetal tissue transplants will lead to abortions performed solely to obtain tissue for transplant should not prevent use of tissue from abortions not performed for that purpose.
The alternative would be to ban fetal tissue transplants altogether.
In addition to ethical concerns about fetal and maternal welfare, opponents of fetal tissue transplants have raised the specter of fetal tissue procurement leading to a commerical market in abortions and in fetal tissue.
A special panel was recently convened by the National Institutes of Health to advise the Assistant Secretary for Health on whether intramural and extramural research programs involving fetal tissue transplants should be supported.
The Yale University School of Medicine has also performed clinical trials of fetal tissue transplants in their Neural Transplant Program.
Studies have shown that transplanting human fetal brain tissue into rats does evoke an immune response.[5] Primate studies, however, have shown little evidence that immunosuppression is required to prevent rejection.[9] Fetal tissue transplants from a single donor without the use of immunosuppression have not led to rejection although the use of multiple donor tissue has resulted in transient improvement and subsequent rejection.[3] In the clinical trials reviewed, immunosuppression was always used when multiple fetal donors were used and even in some trials where only one donor was used.
Progress in Brain Research 1988; 78:287-296 [10.] Fine A: The ethics of fetal tissue transplants. Hastings Center Report 1988; 18(3):5-8.