Anti-Abortion Laws May Thwart Zika Research

March 28, 2016

Even as mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus advance northward, lawmakers in 18 states are trying to block the fetal tissue research that might reveal the keys to unlocking the disease and preventing the massive birth defects associated with it.

The furor from the Planned Parenthood sting videos is driving the tide of bills, which range from outright bans on research using aborted tissue to prohibitions on tissue donations.

Scientists say such laws in states like Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Indiana — along with an escalating probe of fetal tissue research by House Republicans — are becoming roadblocks to the research needed to combat Zika. But the reaction has been muted because scientists fear the wrath of anti-abortion activists, even though many say the research is urgent to find the answers that could save children from birth defects or death.

“Basically the only insights we’ve had so far on Zika is with patients who have either lost a pregnancy or had miscarriages,” said Patrick Ramsey, an obstetrician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “This is a situation where the vaccine is going to have to protect the mom and protect the baby. Fetal tissue is going to be needed to look at the effects.”

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