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The Source of Too Many Vaccines

Surgical tools lined up on a tray

To say that a vaccine was derived from an aborted cell line sounds both clinical and perhaps even a bit benign. What does it mean and why should it be concerning?

Modern vaccines, those developed since the 1960s, have been developed from cells taken from two aborted humans. Researchers, after the abortions were performed, obtained parental consent to use the human remains for medical research. They extracted cells and cultured them in order to grow organic material. It is important to note that these vaccines are derived from cells from these two aborted persons alone, which is to say that abortions are not being used today, or at scale, for vaccination research.

When we say that certain vaccines are developed from these aborted cell lines, what do we mean? A cell line is a sort of molecular genealogy. I started, as you did, as a single totipotent cell. As that cell divided, and over the course of my life as cells have broken down, new cells have formed. The cells that make up my body today are of the same “cell line,” in that they can all be traced back to the same original cell. The vaccines that we are manufacturing today are grown using tissue from aborted cell lines-this does not mean that we are continuing to abort children for this purpose.

In the case of vaccines derived from aborted embryos, a base “ingredient” used to grow the organic material of the vaccine is the remaining cells from aborted human embryos. Since life begins at conception and because these humans were electively aborted, that means that at one point in time, while still alive and growing, these were human persons. This is why vaccination presents a bioethical concern.

There is also some concern about the possibility of some of the DNA from these aborted human embryos ending up in the patient through the vaccine. According to Dr. Paul Offit, the chief of infectious disease at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it is unlikely due to the weakness of the DNA structure that is destroyed in the manufacturing process and the fact that “DNA from the vaccine is not able to incorporate itself into the cellular DNA.” As an analogy, I’ve never opened an orange and found tree bark. The organic matter that is harvested from the aborted embryo makes up the “fruit” while the aborted embryo tissue itself, “the tree,” remains, producing more organic matter. This callous example is repugnant and disregards the dignity of the human person, but it is meant purely to be illustrative.

While a good has been derived from the morally illicit act of abortion, that does not negate the evil that has occurred. These human persons were denied a suitable environment and nutrition, their lives electively and willfully ended at the very beginning. Taking the cells from their remains and using them for scientific research is akin to harvesting human organs from a of a recently deceased person who consented to donate them. This parallel alone is what makes this question grey in the remotest possible sense. In both cases, consenting authorities granted the use of the remains for scientific purposes, the only difference being the manner and morality of the cause of death.

If the vaccines were being derived from a human embryo which was scientifically being prevented from either growing or dying, there would be no possible ethical way for any person of conscience to use that particular vaccine. In the same way, if the development of these vaccines required a steady supply of aborted human tissue, there would be no morally licit way of using any vaccine. The fact that the vaccines are derived from aborted persons over 50 years ago presents the smallest of ethical openings in which we can search for truth.