Choose This Day: Life or Death

The stakes have been raised in the ethical question: “Does it take a life to save a life?” The choice is ours—especially when one of those lives has no choice.

In the wake of the biotech nightmares of which we have learned so much, a ray of sanity is beginning to beam brightly. A movement, which began at the beginning of the new millennium to provide “pro-life” alternatives to products and vaccines developed with aborted fetal cell line material, is gaining momentum. It is a wake-up call for us all. A passage in Deuteronomy defines our ultimate choice:

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and thy seed may live.

Deuteronomy 30:19

For many years, heated accusations have been hurled by pro-life (anti-abortion) groups toward pharmaceutical companies regarding the development of relatively common vaccines using tissue taken from aborted fetuses. The “pro-choice” (pro-abortion) and scientific community returned rounds of denials. Neither side provided clear documentation in support of its opinions.


Vaccinations have been a topic of public debate since an 1853 law required universal vaccination against smallpox in England and Wales, with fines levied on those who did not comply. Similar laws were enacted in the United States and countries throughout the world in the years that followed.

Vaccinations work by presenting a substance, usually a protein, from the surface of a cell or bacterium that stimulates the production of an antibody, or immune response, into the recipient.

The vaccine development processes require a medium or “cell culture” to grow in. The virus or bacteria invades the culture cells, feeds off the cell, matures, and multiplies. The cell cultures are typically a single type of cell that multiplies itself in a predictable manner. These cell cultures can be sustained in a laboratory setting for years and are referred to as “cell lines.”

In the history of vaccine development, the original cells that start these cell lines have been taken from a wide variety of sources from monkey embryo and kidney cells, to chicken and rabbit embryos. However, in 1962, aborted human babies were added to the “source list.”

Aborted Fetal Cell Lines

The two fetal cell lines that have been used heavily in vaccine development have been named for the laboratory facilities where they were developed. The first one is WI-38, developed at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA by Dr. Leonard Hayflick in 1962. The cell line began with lung cells from an aborted healthy female fetus at the end of the third month of pregnancy. According to his article published in the scientific journal, Experimental Cell Research, Dr. Hayflick identified three cell lines, WI-26, WI-38, WI-44, developed from aborted babies.

In 1985, cell line PER.C6 was developed by Dr. Alex Van Der Eb and is currently being used in the research to develop vaccines to treat Ebola and HIV. According to Dr. Van Der Eb’s testimony to the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee:

So I isolated retina [cells] from a fetus, from a healthy fetus as far as could be seen, of 18 weeks old.

The Percivia PER.C6 Development Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA marketing documents of PER.C6 circumvent the entire truth of the background of the cell line:

The history of PER.C6®cells is an exceptional example of the market’s adaptation to a changing environment both through technology improvements and regulatory stringency. The PER.C6® cell line was derived from a single healthy human retinal cell and recombinant DNA technology allows it to replicate indefinitely. Today, PER.C6® cells provide high yields, industrial level production and human-like glycoforms on expressed proteins.

Ethical Dilemma

As a society, consideration is given to the morality and cost of failing to prevent widespread outbreaks of disease. There is a centuries-old civic responsibility associated with vaccines and controlling diseases.

However, the creation of life-sustaining vaccinations prepared from the cells of an aborted human being has caused many to stop and consider the question—“at what cost?”

The moral perspective of those who are utterly opposed to the use of these vaccines is straightforward and justifiable.

Of growing concern is the fact that while the vaccines themselves do not contain fetal cells, it is presumed that there is residual biological matter from the fetal cells that has been assimilated into the vaccine.

For some, the entire matter is becoming eerily reminiscent of the 1973 American science fiction film, Soylent Green, in which dead humans were handily reprocessed into food capsules.

In fact, vaccines are not the only products using aborted fetal tissue.

Product Research

In 1999 foremost biochemist, Lubert Stryer, founded Senomyx. Senomyx is an American biotechnology company that develops additives to amplify certain flavors and smells in foods. Their marketing information claims the company has reverse engineered the receptors in humans that react for taste and aroma. They are capitalizing on these discoveries to produce chemicals that will make food taste better.

Keep in mind, these chemicals are used in processed foods. According to their website:1

Senomyx is discovering and developing innovative flavor ingredients for the food, beverage, and ingredient supply industries using our unique proprietary technologies. We believe that our novel flavors, flavor enhancers, and bitter blockers will enable our collaborators to improve the nutritional profile of their products and/or achieve a competitive advantage maintaining or enhancing taste.

Unfortunately, Senomyx uses a cell line identified as HEK-293 that stands for “human embryonic kidney” cells. This too is an aborted fetal cell line cultured by Dr. Alex Van Der Eb in his laboratory in Leiden, The Netherlands, in the early 1970s.

While Senomyx boasts several food and beverage company contracts, their agreement with PepsiCo sprang into the public eye in October 2011 when a pro-life organization filed a shareholder resolution with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and PepsiCo to protest the use of an aborted fetal cell line in the research and development of flavor enhancers for their beverages.

In August 2010, PepsiCo entered into a $30 million four-year agreement with Senomyx for the development of artificial high-potency sweeteners. The public outcry grew to include over two dozen pro-life organizations globally with sanctioned product boycotts in the U.S., Britain, Australia, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and Poland.

In February 2012, the SEC decided against the shareholder filing, ruling that PepsiCo’s agreement with Senomyx falls under “ordinary business operations” for the beverage company. Jeff Dahncke, senior director of communications for PepsiCo, said the following “to correct the misperceptions and erroneous information” that had appeared in media reports about the controversy:

PepsiCo does not conduct or fund research, including research performed by third parties, which utilizes any human tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses as clearly stated in the company’s “Statement on Responsible Research”2 on our website.3 Any research funded by PepsiCo and conducted by Senomyx for PepsiCo must abide by this responsible research statement.

So how does PepsiCo find it so easy to deny the documented link to an aborted fetal cell line? According to one pro-life spokesperson, “It is all a matter of contorted semantics.” The aborted fetal cell line used by Senomyx is from a lab that cultivated it out of cells from a baby aborted in the 1970s. Neither PepsiCo nor Senomyx “took these cells directly from the fetus.”

Yet, after months of pro-life opposition, PepsiCo just recently indicated it has altered its contract with Senomyx. PepsiCo’s VP of Global Public Policy, Paul Boykas stated that:

Senomyx will not use HEK cells or any other tissues or cell lines derived from human embryos or fetuses for research performed on behalf of PepsiCo. We took the matter very seriously. We have an official Statement on Responsible Research and we intend to live by that policy.

That policy precludes any research by PepsiCo—or third parties they fund—from using human tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or babies who were aborted.

Debi Vinnedge of the pro-life group Children of God for Life, who spearheaded the boycott efforts, said the PepsiCo decision meant an immediate end to the boycott that began in May 2011—good news to both PepsiCo and their customers who have abstained from drinking Pepsi in protest. She announced:

We are absolutely thrilled with PepsiCo’s decision. They have listened to their customers and have made both a wise and profound statement of corporate integrity that deserves the utmost respect, admiration and support of the public.

The Business of Abortion

But in reality, the matter of “contorted semantics” can be applied to the entire abortion industry today. There is a federal law (42 U.S.C. § 289g-2 : US Code - Section 289G-2: Prohibitions regarding human fetal tissue) that is supposed to ban the practice of selling aborted fetus body parts:

(a) Purchase of tissue: It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.

However, a gaping loophole has been used to create the wholesale harvesting of more than fetal cells:

(d) Definitions: (3) The term “valuable consideration” does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.

Another clarification of terms is valuable. “Embryonic” stem cells are taken from the inner cell mass of an embryo from four days to several weeks after fertilization. After that time, the stem cells are considered to be “adult.”

When “adult” cells are utilized, the fact that the fetus was aborted is often obscured in the lack of adequate documentation.

Federal and some state laws permit fetal tissue research, but there are definite gaps in the oversight of the source of the fetus. Additionally, the loophole in the federal regulations has been exploited.

One example is the Brain and Tissue Bank for Developmental Disorders, hosted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine. According to the Bank’s “Catalog of Available Tissue,” it stores tissue from hundreds of fetuses, including those with chromosomal disorders, anencephaly, and many with no disorders at all, marked as “control” tissue spanning ages 10 to 30 weeks.

When contacted as to the source of the tissue, Bank director, H. Ronald Zielke, assumed the researchers acquired fetal remains directly from “some service that does terminations.” This would include those with whom the Bank had “private agreements.”

Another top supplier of fetal tissue is the Birth Defects Research Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, USA. According to the lab’s grant records, it received $579,091 from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2010. To date, the lab retrieved the “products” of 22,000 pregnancies.

Astonishingly, a description the lab provided in its most recent grant application bemoaned that an increase in nonsurgical abortion methods has “created new obstacles to obtaining sufficient amounts of high quality tissue. To overcome these problems and meet increasing demand, the Laboratory has developed new relationships with both local and distant clinics.”

Sanity Enters the Marketplace

In contrast to the University of Washington stands Theresa Deisher, Ph.D. In 2008, Dr. Deisher became the President and founder of Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, also in Seattle. Additionally, in 2008, she formed AVM Biotechnology that is “dedicated to the discovery, development, and commercialization of safe, effective, and affordable pro-life therapeutics.”

The stakes have been raised in the ethical question: “Does it take a life to save a life?”

The choice is ours—especially when one of those lives has no choice.