President Trump was given Regeneron antibodies and Remdesivir (a pro-drug and an adenosine nucleoside triphosphate analog). Both medications were made with the use, as some point in their research, development, or production using Aborted Fetal Cell Lines (AFCL). Trump has previously stated he would like the use of these cell lines to become illegal.
This could be done without any loss to research or the production of medications. New cell lines can be developed to replace the several lines that originated from aborted fetuses. Once these lines are developed, tested, and in place, they can gradually replace the existing AFCLs. There is no need to suddenly stop using these lines, without any replacement. Such a course of action would do more harm than good, and so would be immoral under Catholic teaching.
Currently, the use of these cell lines, when there is no other line that can accomplish the compassionate and humanitarian goals of medical research, is moral. No new abortion is committed by the researchers. And those who accept the medication are in a situation of remote material cooperation, usually very remote. Therefore, under Catholic teaching, it is moral to accept these vaccines or medications.
Alexandra Bowie, spokesperson for Regeneron, stated the following: “This particular discovery program (REGN-COV2) did not involve human stem cells or ESCs. The 293T cell line was originally derived from human embryonic kidney cells but is an immortalized epithelial cell – so not a stem cell. These cells were transfected and used in production of a ‘pseudoparticle’ that mimics the virus’ Spike protein and allowed us to test neutralization ability of our antibodies against the virus.”
So the antibodies made by Regeneron are not produced using AFCLs, but research for testing of the antibodies at one point used a particular AFCL. This is remote to the medication, and therefore it is moral for any and all Catholics to accept this treatment. It is not contrary to Catholic moral teaching.
However, the company, in other efforts, does make human embryonic stem cell by means of IVF. The company states: “Currently, there are limited research efforts employing human-induced pluripotent stem cell lines derived from adult human cells and human embryonic stem cells that are approved for research use by the National Institutes of Health and created solely through in vitro fertilization.”
The use of IVF is gravely immoral. It means that instead of using cell lines from a single abortion many decades ago, they do something much worse. They create new human persons in vitro, and then use them for stem cells, and then the destroy all the human embryos. From the Catholic point of view, this is a type of abortion performed by the researchers who are making and destroying these human embryos. However, I don’t know whether the company makes these stem cells themselves, or buys them from a research company. Either way, it is very gravely immoral and much more direct than the AFCLs. But this does not pertain to the Covid-19 antibodies product.
Remdesivir was also tested using a fetal cell line from a single abortion in the Netherlands in the early 1970s. The product is not manufactured using AFCLs. This is another case of remote material cooperation, which is moral. It is moral for the recipients of this medication to receive it, as stated above.
Since the Trump administration is against abortion and against using abortions to create new fetal cell lines, some commentators said that Trump should have refused the treatments. The Trump administration issued this respoinse:
“The Administration’s policy on the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions in research specifically excluded ‘already-established (as of June 5, 2019) human fetal cell lines,” the official said. “Thus, a product made using extant cell lines that existed before June 5, 2019 would not implicate the Administration’s policy.” [CBS News]
Under Catholic teaching, the use of Regeneron antibodies and/or Remdesivir would certainly be moral. So Trump should not have refused the medications on moral grounds, nor does his reception of these contradict his policy, which permits the use of existing cell lines to continue.
No vaccines are manufactured using any kind of new abortion or new human embryonic stem cells from IVF. So the current vaccines in development, though they use AFCLs in research and development, are moral to receive. The abortion that established the cell line occurred many years earlier. The use of the cell lines in research today does not change that past grave sin.
The use of IVF by researchers to create new human embryonic stem cells creates new human persons by artificial procreation, which is gravely immoral, and then destroys all of those human persons. The number of embryos created and killed could be in the hundreds or thousands across the many companies using this technique. It has become an accepted and legal technique for research.
So while so many pro-lifers are jumping up and down and making so much noise about the few aborted fetal cell lines, from a few abortions many years ago, a much larger number of new abortions are occurring from the use of IVF to create human embryonic stem cells for research. It’s like protesting a single murder that accused decades ago, while many new murders are occurring down the street from the protest. Focus, people! AFCLs should be replaced with moral cell lines, sure. But IVF creates and kills new human persons by the hundreds or thousands every year for research, and I don’t hear any complaints from the pro-life groups. Yes, prolifers reject IVF for making babies, but I don’t hear anything from then on the research use of IVF.