The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is set to receive over $151 million in state funding following efforts by Pennsylvania House Republicans to end the school’s horrific fetal tissue research practices.
Last week, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives approved an amendment blocking Pitt’s taxpayer funding unless the state-related university would agree under oath to no longer conduct experiments using fetal tissue obtained by elective abortions. The university’s fetal tissue largely comes from nearby UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital (Magee), which performs more voluntary and medically induced abortions than any other hospital in the state.
The day after the amendment was brought to the floor, a group of Democratic members of the PA House held a press conference to express their strong disapproval. Leading the charge against the amendment was Rep. Sara Innamorato, who rejected the attempts to stop “life-saving and life-sustaining research” at her alma mater.
Her sentiments were echoed by Rep. Austin Davis, a 2012 Pitt graduate who is running as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, and Rep. Dan Frankel, Gov. Tom Wolf’s former designee to Pitt’s Board of Trustees.
On Wednesday night, the House voted to pass Pitt’s annual appropriation, with half of the Republican members condemning the funding. The financial restriction for engaging in research using elective abortions was added to a separate bill that passed almost completely along party lines.
Conservative lawmakers’ opposition to providing Pitt with financial backing gained steam after the 2020 publication of a taxpayer-funded immunology study in which university researchers grafted fetal scalps to mice and rats. The disturbing project prompted a House Health Committee hearing on fetal experimentation last May.
Pitt encountered national scrutiny three months later when Judicial Watch released a 2015 grant application sent from Pitt to the National Institutes of Health that led to allegations of fetuses being aborted alive at Magee to “ensure the highest quality biological specimens.” The university receives significant funding from the NIH which has steadily increased over the past decade.
Judicial Watch caused further headaches for the university this April by revealing records showing that Pitt Associate Senior Vice Chancellor for Science Strategy Dr. Jeremy Berg contacted then-NIH Director Francis Collins to request help with combating “efforts to undermine important science using fetal tissue.” Berg served as director of the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences from 2003 to 2011.
Frustration with Pitt’s version of science has not been exclusive to representatives within the state. In May, 89 Republican members of Congress from around the country sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting a thorough investigation into Pitt’s fetal tissue research. Inspector General Christi Grimm responded to the request by stating that her office will “follow up accordingly,” and a special agent has been assigned to the case.
A statement provided by Rep. Innamorato’s office suggests that an examination of the fetal tissue research has already taken place and found no evidence of wrongdoing. This is based on a flawed investigation paid for by Pitt and conducted by a graduate of the university last fall. The report demonstrated a failure to explore “clinical decision-making” and “delivery of medical care” at Magee and incorrectly identified the source of fetal parts for the humanized rodent study as a California-based wholesaler.
Pitt’s appropriation bill is expected to get final approval by Gov. Wolf. The pro-abortion Democrat was undeterred by the fetal tissue controversy when he partnered with Magee last November to flaunt his administration’s effort to improve maternal health services.
Both the university and Wolf will be pulling for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro in the upcoming November election. The state’s attorney general has made his unwavering support for expanding abortion rights a top issue of his campaign. The future of Pitt’s gruesome fetal tissue research also hangs in the balance.