October 26, 2021 | Jerry Bergman

On Vaccines and Fetal Tissue, Wisdom Is Required

Opposition Is Strong to Using Cells from Aborted Babies:
Advances in science will vindicate the pro-life position


by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Many persons who oppose abortion also oppose the use of cells taken from aborted embryos for research or therapy. The problem is, should they also reject products that use cells from aborted embryos either in research, development, or in the product itself? It’s not as easy a choice as first seems. It would require not using a long list of medicines, cosmetics, foods, and other products. Heather Frank, reporter for the pro-life Christian magazine World, says:

replacing cell lines that have been in existence for decades presents technical and practical challenges, especially since they are already entrenched in medical research. Vaccines against hepatitis A, rubella, chicken pox, shingles, rabies, and adenoviruses were created using either MRC-5 cells, taken from a baby boy aborted in 1966, or WI-38 cells, taken from a baby girl aborted in 1962. A multitude of over-the-counter drugs, including Tylenol and Tums, also used abortion-linked cell lines during research and development. Prescription medications, too, such as Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis and Pulmozyme for cystic fibrosis, are linked to fetal tissue studies.[1; see disclaimer in footnote].

This is a short list of the uses of cells from aborted fetuses for research. A few more examples are Nestlé’s refrigerated coffee creamers, bouillon cubes, instant soups and noodles, ketchups, sauces, and seasonings from Nestlé’s brand Maggi. Freezestorm products were also developed from HEK-293 aborted fetal cells, as were Ajinomoto’s umami seasoning, Techno-A savory, and Hondashi seasonings. Cosmetics that use aborted baby tissue include Neocutis’ anti-aging creams Bio-Gel, Prevedem, Journee, Bio-Serum, Lumiere, and Bio-Restorative Skin Cream. Decouverte cosmetics contain tropoelastin from embryonic stem cells. For other products see the Appendix at the end of this article.

Several anti-abortion advocates promote the view that religiously avoiding this long list of products is like condemning the speck in someone’s else’s eye but condoning the stick in your own eye.[2] They feel the focus should be on stemming the flood of abortions occurring now as opposed to expending efforts to deal with those that occurred years or decades ago.

Henrietta Lacks’ Immortal Cells

I am not aware of all of the many cell lines that came from aborted babies, but I assumed that all of the cells I used when doing cancer research at the medical school were HeLa cells, taken from cancer victim Henrietta Lacks. (see my article about this from 21 December 2020). HeLa cells are one of the most commonly used cell lines for research. A great deal is known about the HeLa cell line because it has been used in tens of thousands of experiments since they were first introduced in 1951. The HeLa cells were the first “immortal” human cell line; immortal because, as cancer cells, the growth and cell division rate is much higher than that in non-cancerous cells.

The reason for this is that, in cancer cells, normal growth and cell-division control is damaged. Compare it to a moving automobile that has a jammed accelerator and broken brakes. It just keeps on moving forward faster and faster until it collides with something or runs out of gas. HeLa cells proliferate abnormally rapidly even compared to most other kinds of cancer cells. One reason is because HeLa cells actively produce telomerase during cell division. This results in the telomerase continuing to produce new telomeres, extending the life of the cell beyond its normal life. The result is close to unlimited cell division and immortality until mutations eventually accumulate, causing the cell line to lose its ability to reproduce. Mutational degradation is true of all cell lines. Mutations add up, eventually destroying their usefulness, requiring the development of new cell lines.

The remarkably durable and prolific HeLa cell line was obtained during the treatment of Henrietta’s cancer by Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. George Gey.[3] Johns Hopkins has never sold or profited from the HeLa cells, nor does it own the rights to the HeLa cell line. This is another major reason why they have been so popular for the last 71 years.

The Ethics of Immortal Cell Lines

One advantage of the present cell line system is, from one petri dish used to grow the cells, samples can be put in, for example, ten petri dishes producing ten new cell lines based on the original. Eventually, mutations will accumulate in one of the ten cell lines, forcing the use of another one of the ten original until all ten become useless due to mutations. For all of these and other reasons the focus should be on other approaches to create new cell lines.

The goal for a therapy is to cause a cell to differentiate, then turn it into a heart, skin, kidney, muscle, or other kind of cells. In many research projects, stem cells are taken from fetal cells. Stem cells are totipotent – capable of giving rise to all types of cells – and, as such, can give rise to both the placenta and the extraembryonic cells. Embryonic cells within the first couple of cell divisions after fertilization are the only cells that are totipotent, thus considered ideal for research and other uses.

Ideally, other cells can be made pluripotent – capable of giving rise to several types of cells. These possess the ability to become a cell for any part of the body, including all 200-plus cell types (skin, nerve, muscle, blood, etc.). In contrast to embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells are only multipotent, capable of giving rise to a limited number of specialized cell types. Multipotent cells can develop into more than one cell type, but are far more limited compared to pluripotent cells. Thus, if non-fetal cells can be effectively and safely made pluripotent this may solve the ethical problem of using embryonic stem cells. University of Utah School of Medicine neurobiology professor Maureen Condic contended

that abortion-linked fetal cells have been widely used in medical research not because of their historical fetal origin, but rather because of their transformation into cells that can divide indefinitely. Scientists no longer need to rely on fetal cells to generate transformed cell lines…. because technological advancements allow them to endow adult stem cells with the same properties as fetal-derived ones.[4]

Progress Toward More Ethical Cell Lines

Some examples of alternatives to abortion-linked fetal cells include many vaccines that have already been developed without using fetal cell lines, including MMR vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella that were developed in Japan using egg and rabbit cells. Furthermore, the

rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine against Ebola uses Vero, a monkey cell line. Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur recently discontinued use of MRC-5 fetal cells in its polio vaccine, also replacing them with Vero cells. India’s Covaxin vaccine against COVID-19 has no connection to aborted fetal stem cells: All testing and production relied on Vero cells.[5]

Another issue is that no existing cell line equally meets all research and pharmaceutical requirements. Chinese hamster ovary cells are most effective for protein and antibody manufacturing but are poor viral carriers.[6] Conversely, HEK-293 cells are excellent viral carriers for gene therapy, but are problematic when used for protein production.[7]

Ideally, research labs will be able to design many specialized alternative cell lines that can outperform fetal cells. The issue related to using aborted tissue will then be a non-issue. Thus it is best to focus on this issue, not boycotting pharmaceuticals and food, which essentially have no effect on ameliorating the problem.


The embryonic stem cell controversy will likely pass as science develops and improves the new techniques. Nonetheless, most scientists believe the use of embryonic stem cells was an important step in reaching the point we are at today. Others see it as a step that should never have been taken in spite of the progress it birthed. This side believes that killing babies should never be condoned regardless of the progress doing so has made in science. The other side notes that the decision was made by the mother to kill the baby, not the scientist who used the cells. Nonetheless, they exploited the mothers decision.



A more complete list of medicines include the following listed in alphabetical order. The manufacture is given in parentheses.[8]

For adenovirus type 4 and type 7: vaccines, live and oral (made by Barr Labs)

For anemia: Procrit, Epoetin alfa Epogen, Aranesp, Darbepoetin alfa (Amgen)

For angioplasty thrombosis (Genetech)

For ebola: Advac, VSV-EBOV (Johnson & Johnson/Cruc, BioProt)

For hepatitis-A: Vagta, Havri Avaxim, Epaxal (Merck,GSK Sanofi, Berna)

For rubella: Meruvax II (Merck)

For shingles: Zostavax (Merck)

For small pox: Acambis 1000 (Acambis)

For G-CSF, for white blood cell stimulation: Abciximab X Varivax, Varilrix (Merck, GSK).

For cystic fibrosis: Pulmozyme (Genetech)

[4th line in list]For hemophilia: rhFVI, rhFVIII, rhFVIX, Nuwiq, Nuqig, Eloctate (Octapharma, BioGen)

[5th line in list]For hepatitis A & B , & typhoid: Twinrix Vivaxim (GSK Sanofi)

For measles, mumps, and rubella: MMR, Priorix (Merck, GSK)

For measles and rubella: MR Vax, Eolarix (Merck, GSK)

For mumps and rubella: Biavax II (Merck).

For MMR +chicken pox: ProQuad/MMR-V, Priorix Tetra.

For polio: Poliovax, DT PolAds, Polio Sabin oral (Sanofi Pasteur, GSK).

For rabies: Imovax (Sanofi Pasteur).

For rheumatoid arthritis: Enbrel (Amgen).

For COVID-1 9: Vaccines produced by the following companies have been either tested or produced with fetal cell lines include Altimmune, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Vaxart, Novavax, University of Pittsburgh, Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech, Sanofi Pasteur, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Arcturas Therapeutics. Others include Acambis 1000 (Acambis)

For smallpox: G-CSF, used for white blood cell stimulation by many manufacturers



[1] Frank, Heather. On Beyond Fetal Cells? Despite the widespread scientific use of fetal cell lines linked to abortions, pro-lifers hope for alternatives. World, 14 October 2021. Disclaimer: World’s source is the Daily Mail (UK), but some doubt about the truthfulness of the claim has arisen by a reader. Bergman suggests we drop the specific medications mentioned in the quote and simply say, “Some over-the-counter drugs, including some pain relievers and antacids, also have used abortion-linked cell lines during research and development.”

[2] Matthew 7:3-5 says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

[3] The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System. The Legacy of Henrietta Lacks. John Hopkins Medicine. 2021. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/henriettalacks/importance-of-hela-cells.html.

[4] Frank, 2021.

[5] Frank, 2021.

[6] Pohl, Hartmut. Enzo, March 2020, https://www.enzolifesciences.com/science-center/technotes/2020/march/what-are-the-advantages-of-using-chinese-hamster-ovary-(cho)-cells?/What are the Advantages of Using Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) Cells?

[7] Oxgene (Oxford Genetics, LTD). The Role of HEK293 Cells in Gene Therapy. Medical News-Life Sciences. 20 May 2020. https://www.news-medical.net/whitepaper/20200520/The-Role-of-HEK293-Cells-in-Gene-Therapy.aspx.

[8] List from Children of God for Life; vaccine charts from Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute; Human Life International’s Products That Use Aborted Fetuses. https://www.hli.org/resources/products-that-use-aborted-fetuses/.

Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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  • R2-U2 says:

    But because there is so much misinformation and disinformation on the Internet and social media, there are probably many “pro-life” folks who actually believe COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells, which is false! Having said that, fetal cell lines (grown in a lab based on aborted fetal cells collected generations ago) were used in testing during research and development of mRNA vaccines.

    Google the Reuters article: “Fact Check-COVID-19 vaccines do not take away the human rights of recipients. A Facebook post has claimed that COVID-19 vaccines take away the human rights of recipients by turning them into genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This is false.”

    Also google the article from the “Alliance For Science” blog (Cornell University) titled: “Yes, some COVID vaccines use genetic engineering. Get over it.”

  • R2-U2 says:

    Ari Melber said on his MSNBC show, The Beat (Oct. 22/21):

    “So let’s start with some data……

    • R2-U2: Comments are intended to be short and to the point. It looks like you are trying to work around our rule not to send people elsewhere by quoting long passages from other sites. Please use your own words, not those of others, except for brief quotes that are pertinent. If you must write lengthy comments, build your own website.

  • R2-U2 says:

    I observed your rule of not including weblinks in my post. The only reason I quoted a lengthy passage from Ari Melber was for CONTEXT.

    Having said that, Melber’s remarks about vaccines can be summed up:

    “Whether science works is not a policy debate. …. What’s not a debate and the only thing you need to keep in mind scientifically is that the vaccines do work. They work. They make it so you won’t die of COVID…. And so, when I show you the map that people who don’t get vaccinated are more likely to die, that’s the situation we’re in right now. That’s the part that’s different than policy, because people are being lied to.”

    • That is a partial truth. For the most part, they work for most people. I have been vaccinated. Vaccine mandates, on the other hand, which Melber seems to be pushing, are a completely separate issue. On that we will drop the discussion because it is off topic for the article, which is about use of fetal tissue for vaccine development.

  • Ryan says:

    I don’t believe the basis of this article:

    “A multitude of over-the-counter drugs, including Tylenol and Tums, also used abortion-linked cell lines during research and development.”

    That’s what this article starts with, however, the source for this is a hospital in the Great State of Arkansas which sent a letter with this claim to their employees. The claim by this Arkansas hospital has been questioned and disputed. Myself and others believe the claim to be false, as many of the medications have been around for a hundred years and are sold under many brands, and certainly have never had anything at all to do with fetal cells. The hospital does not respond to questions on the email and will not provide any proof. Employees should sue them. I think they are lying. If that’s your only source, then I consider it flawed.

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