Tony Perkins

Hate group leader Tony Perkins thinks that the science changes with each new administration. The head of Family Research Council is now unhappy with Dr. Francis Sellers Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Francis Collins is now in his fifth presidential administration. Dr. Collins was the director of the National Human Genome Institute from 1993 to 2008 (Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43). He became director of NIH in 2009 under President Obama and is now working under the Trump administration. His demonstrable accomplishments are too numerous to mention here.

None of that matters to Tony Perkins:

In a recent interview with Science Magazine, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins said that fetal tissue research “will continue to be a mainstay” and claimed those who are pro-life can support funding research involving tissue from aborted babies.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement:

“Dr. Francis Collins seems to have forgotten that he no longer works for President Obama and is now working for a pro-life president. His advocacy for using aborted baby parts in research is more reflective of the previous administration rather than the Trump administration, which has consistently advanced the sanctity of human life.”

Actually, even political appointees do not work for the president. They may work at his pleasure but ultimately they work for the American people.

In early 2017 Collins was supposed to stay on temporarily. Almost two years later, there is very little talk of replacing him. That may be due to the fact that Collins has broad congressional support from both sides of the aisle.

Perkins did not link to the article but the applicable sentences read:

NIH has just announced it will spend up to $20 million on research on alternatives. He called that effort “scientifically, highly justified.” At the same time, fetal tissue “will continue to be the mainstay,” he said, adding: “There is strong evidence that scientific benefits can come from fetal tissue research, which can be done with an ethical framework.”

HHS, NIH’s parent agency, is a political operation and they have reacted to politics and religious objections. The current secretary, Alex Azar, replaced Trump’s first appointee, Tom Price. Azar is a politician, lawyer, pharmaceutical lobbyist and former drug company executive:

In September, HHS canceled a U.S. Food and Drug Administration contract to purchase fetal tissue for drug testing and announced it was launching a review of all federally funded research that uses fetal tissue obtained after elective abortions. Last week, the department told researchers on an NIH contract at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), that it was allowing only a 90-day renewal of an annual contract that funds the use of fetal tissue to produce mice with humanlike immune systems, pending the outcome of the review. And as Science first reported, NIH acknowledged last week that a lab within the NIH intramural research program had to suspend an HIV research project this past September because NIH has halted procurement of fetal tissue by its own scientists.

Embryonic stem cells have two distinct advantages. They are naive tissue (having built up no resistances) and they are pluripotent which NIH describes as: “Having the ability to give rise to all of the various cell types of the body.”

I do not understand the religious objection at all. Using embryonic stem cells does not cause anyone to have an abortion that they otherwise would not have. It is making good use of tissues that would otherwise be disposed of. That, in turn, has the potential to save lives. Whoever said that fundamentalist Christians make any sense?

Perkins’ tirade continues:

“Taxpayers expect their tax dollars to go to ethical and effective science. The fact is aborted baby parts haven’t been used to treat any person of a single disease. However, tax dollars are contributing to an industry that fosters the trafficking of body parts from aborted children. We must instead pursue the alternatives, and testimony before Congress in the House Government Reform hearing last week demonstrated the availability of noncontroversial approaches.

This taxpayer expects medical science to be about medical science and not superstition. Perkins is intentionally mis-characterizing the use of fetal stem cells in research. As NIH explains (it is worth the read if you are curious about these things):

There are many ways in which human stem cells can be used in research and the clinic. Studies of human embryonic stem cells will yield information about the complex events that occur during human development. A primary goal of this work is to identify how undifferentiated stem cells become the differentiated cells that form the tissues and organs. Scientists know that turning genes on and off is central to this process. Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are due to abnormal cell division and differentiation. A more complete understanding of the genetic and molecular controls of these processes may yield information about how such diseases arise and suggest new strategies for therapy. Predictably controlling cell proliferation and differentiation requires additional basic research on the molecular and genetic signals that regulate cell division and specialization. While recent developments with iPS cells suggest some of the specific factors that may be involved, techniques must be devised to introduce these factors safely into the cells and control the processes that are induced by these factors.

Human stem cells are currently being used to test new drugs. New medications are tested for safety on differentiated cells generated from human pluripotent cell lines.…

Perhaps the most important potential application of human stem cells is the generation of cells and tissues that could be used for cell-based therapies. Today, donated organs and tissues are often used to replace ailing or destroyed tissue, but the need for transplantable tissues and organs far outweighs the available supply. Stem cells, directed to differentiate into specific cell types, offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases includingmacular degeneration, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

I cannot assess how many people have benefited indirectly from the use of fetal stem cells — not the cells themselves but the research advanced through their use. The objection is just plain stupid in light of the benefits, now and in the future. Were Dr. Collins replaced with a scientist who was influenced by religious dogma, that individual would be far less qualified.

Religion must be kept out of schools, our doctors’ offices and our research facilities. Tony Perkins is free to inquire if a treatment he is to receive was indirectly developed from embryonic stem cell research or is directly an embryonic stem cell application. He is then free to fucking die for lack of the most advanced treatment. He has no right to make those decisions for anyone else. I doubt that he knows what a test tube is used for.

Yet Perkins has Trump’s attention. Not because Trump gives a rat’s ass about religion but because he needs evangelical support. Two more years of this craziness and maybe we can restore dignity, class, honesty and sanity to the White House along with a good measure of basic common sense.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.