Last April, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops organized a petition drive to urge the federal Food and Drug Administration to make sure any COVID-19 vaccine be derived from ethical sources, not involving cell lines originating from fetuses killed by induced abortion. So what has happened since?
Some vaccines are in the testing stage already. Two, from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, have been much in the news over the past couple of weeks. In a recent EWTN interview, ethicist Joseph Meaney of the National Catholic Bioethics Center said that neither of those vaccines are developed or produced from human fetal cell lines. I’m happy to hear that, since those two vaccines will likely be the first to market.
As the bishops wrote in their petition last spring, “It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience.“
No matter who’s in the White House or Congress or the FDA or a pharmaceutical company’s board, that’s a message that is going to need to be delivered over and over again.
Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech 57 years ago today.
I’m understating the case to say that nonviolence hasn’t quite won out yet. I could fill this post with links to news reports just from today, from this country, proving that point.
With all that Dr. King wrote and said, I keep coming back to his 1964 book, Why We Can’t Wait. I have a paperback edition I treasure, published in his lifetime, without prefaces or afterwords written by people trying to frame his words for me.
In a book that continues to challenge me every time I pick it up, there’s this.
Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.
Martin Luther King, Why We Can’t Wait
“Must” become, not “has” or “will.” There’s urgency there. Perpetual urgency seems a contradiction in terms, yet here we are.
There’s a march in Washington today, timed to coincide with the anniversary of “I have a dream.” It’s meant to be a nonviolent affirmation of the need for racial justice, and I hope nothing disrupts it.
Pandemic or not, I have no problem with a scheduled march for human rights. Coronavirus doesn’t seem to stand in the way of violence anywhere, so it shouldn’t stand in the way of peaceful demonstrations. The National Park Service in Washington seems to appreciate that.
I expect the same courtesy, permits, and COVID-19 precautions to be extended to the March for Life next January.
Featured photo: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo credit: National Park Service/volunteer Bill Shugarts.
The April 17 letter says in part, “To be clear, we strongly support efforts to develop an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible. However, we also strongly urge our federal government to ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited.”
The letter, released by the USCCB, is signed by several USCCB members as well as by physicians and other health care professionals, medical ethicists, and pro-life activists.
NOT A HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION
According to the letter, the concern over how a COVID-19 vaccine is to be derived is based on work that is already happening. Practical decisions are being made now.
We are aware that, among the dozens of vaccines currently in development, some are being produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies. For example, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has a substantial contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is working on a vaccine that is being produced using one of these ethically problematic cell lines. Thankfully, other vaccines such as those being developed by Sanofi Pasteur, Inovio, and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute utilize cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.
It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience. Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines.
from coalition letter to FDA, 4/17/2020
SHARE THE MESSAGE
Share this letter and petition as you see fit. The online petition has a clear message, but includes space for your own words.