Further Questions, Answers, and Clarifications Regarding Abortions & Vaccines
The following addresses several questions asked about abortions and vaccines.
1) Does the article above advocate that people should vaccinate or must vaccinate? Some oppose vaccines on other grounds, like adjuvants, preservatives, autism, or liberty infringement.
In the United States, choices concerning vaccines evoke strong emotions surrounding issues of public health and infringing on personal liberties. Sometimes mentioning a vaccine thrusts a person into a culture war full of polarization. We would not wish to cause unnecessary division (1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2). We do, however, want to reason thoughtfully through the dynamics of the issue at hand, due to its relevance in America today (cf. Isaiah 1:18). The article does not advocate that peopleshoulduse vaccines or that people must vaccinate. This choice involves the consideration of several patient-specific variables. In fact, in some cases, the risks outweigh the benefits and patients should not vaccinate. For example, sometimes patients are immunocompromised or are undergoing chemotherapy or have allergens where the risks would outweigh the benefits. The article considers, as a matter of liberty, whether someone could use certain vaccines in good conscience given their developmental origin.
2) Does the article argue a utilitarian ethic of the greatest good for the greatest number or an outcome-based ethic?
No, the argument in the article proceeded from the Bible, rather than purely secular ethical theories. While calculating risk versus benefit (Luke 14:31) and doing good to all men are noble goals (Galatians 6:10; Matthew 7:12), the article at hand focused on assessing moral accountability for two actions.
3) Does the article argue that the end (receiving or administering a vaccine) justifies the means (having an abortion)?
Absolutely not. No vaccine could ever justify elective abortion. The ends do not justify the means. The above article takes a strong stance against abortion. While several acts and their human agents could be considered, two acts are specifically under consideration in the article. One act is abortion. A second act is administering or receiving a vaccine. The article was careful to point out that in the U.S. standards of practice and laws exist that separate the sin of abortion from the end user who may choose to vaccinate. In addition to 45 CFR 46.204 [See Reseach and Being Complicit], the 42 U.S. Code § 289g–1 states:
(A) in the case of tissue obtained pursuant to an induced abortion—
(i) the consent of the woman for the abortion was obtained prior to requesting or obtaining consent for a donation of the tissue for use in such research;
(ii) no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue; and
(iii) the abortion was performed in accordance with applicable State law.1
Therefore, one ought not conflate an immoral act (abortion) with a moral act (preventing disease). Laws and standards of practice are in place that forbid vaccines being the proximate cause of abortion. If one receives a vaccine, one is not necessarily supporting abortion. In short, the heinous act of the deliberate abortion of a child had nothing to do with—and no connection to—the use of the fetal tissue.
4) Is there a breakdown in the parallel between organ procurement and donation and using vaccines from fetal cell lines? Can you explain the parallel?
Let’s consider a homicide scenario where an innocent person is senselessly murdered. If this occurred, would it be possible to use one or more organs from the deceased to benefit one or more people? Based on the Bible, we would oppose the senseless murder of an innocent person (Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:18). Additionally, we would argue that the death of the innocent person was tragic (Proverbs 6:16-19). Further, we would stand against inducing or encouraging more senseless homicides that were carried out for the purpose of more people benefitting from more transplantations (Romans 1:32). Since someone has died, however, and has died a death not wanted or encouraged or supported by the beneficiary, it would be possible for that life that ended tragically to benefit others in need. In the U.S., laws and standards of practice exist that separate sin (and sinner) from end user. [See Research and Being Complicit ] There is a parallel for those who choose to use vaccines from fetal cell lines. They can oppose abortion. They can also oppose behaviors (inducements or encouragements) that lead to abortion. They can also take confidence that their use or administration of a vaccine did not cause the abortion. People immorally decide to abort independent of choices of end users who may choose to use or administer a vaccine. So, for those who decide to exercise that liberty, they can oppose abortion while using/administering a vaccine. If they ask the question—“In using/administering this vaccine, did I cause an abortion?”, they can in good conscience answer that they did not. The end user bears no guilt in the abortion.
5) What about issues of informed consent? In organ donation, one could potentially consent to organ donation, but an aborted child gives no consent. Should I refrain from vaccine use based on informed consent grounds?
Each individual must thoughtfully work through the issues at hand with conscience in mind. Concerning organ donation, the U.S. is an “opt-in” nation.2 Patients are not donors by default. If organs are procured, the patient or family must consent to the donation. Donor status can be indicated on a driver’s license and some states are “first-person consent” states.3 In these states, if a conflict with the family were to arise upon death, the organs could still be procured because the patient, prior to death, gave first-person consent. Also, in the U.S., children up until the age of 18 do not typically give consent. They will assent, giving agreement, to certain procedures and sometimes, as they approach the age of maturity, courts will consider the child’s understanding and desires in weighing medical decisions. So, for children, parents could consent to organ donation upon their death. In the article, the cause of death of the donor was not detailed. [See Research and Being Complicit] This death could be from a tragic accident or from any number of reasons. The parallel that was offered was that upon death, tissue exists that potentially could be used that benefits another. If laws and standards of practice are followed, the user of the tissue bears no responsibility or moral guilt in the death of the donor.4
6) Can you clarify, do all vaccines come from fetal cell lines?
No, there are multiple vaccinations that are available in the United States. Some are developed from fetal cell lines and others are not. Vaccines that use fetal cell lines include measles, Hepatitis A, and Varicella (chicken pox).5 Concerning some of the COVID-19 candidates, some, but not all, are derived from fetal cell lines.6
7) WALVAX-2 is a fetal cell line developed in 2015. Why does the article not address this cell line?
In no way should the article be seen as an endorsement of abortion practices in the U.S. or abroad. The article primarily focuses on practices in the United States where the laws and standards of practice may differ from other nations. Other countries may or may not create vaccines that would directly encourage the practice of abortions through, for example, incentives. WALVAX is a Chinese biotech company that has produced a cell line derived from an aborted fetus that is offered as an alternative to MRC-5.7 Currently, there seems to be little information in the primary literature that addresses vaccines that would employ this cell line. There is no evidence that any of the candidates for a COVID-19 vaccine utilize WALVAX-2.8 It is important to note that alternatives do exist to fetal cell lines. Currently, there are means to capture cells from amniocentesis9 and human umbilical cords.10
8) The thought of receiving a vaccine bothers my conscience. Should I be a recipient if it benefits the greater public health?
The question addressed in the above article was whether, as a matter of liberty (not obligation), one could receive or administer a vaccine. People should not violate their consciences (1 John 3:20). The Bible is the ultimate guide of human behavior (2 Timothy 3:16-17). One’s conscience is not a guide, but a guard that accuses or excuses behavior (Romans 2:15).11 Further, the conscience guards retrospectively, evaluating past behavior, and guards prospectively as one contemplates future behaviors.12 The point of the article is to biblically and scientifically inform people so that they could make decisions in good conscience.
9) Once an abortion occurs, are any who subsequently handle the body guilty of the abortion?
The Bible says “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). The acts under consideration are sequentially linked, yet culpably distinct. Acts before and after the abortion must be evaluated according to Scripture. Abortion is certainly a sin. Further, practitioners who facilitate abortions are guilty of sin. Yet, not every act of handling the body after abortion is sinful whereby one would be guilty of sin. From Ezekiel 18 it is clear that God holds those spiritually accountable who commit offenses, not subsequent generations. Subsequent generations ultimately are held accountable for their own sins. Also, consider the details of 1 Corinthians 8 and its applicability to the current discussion. Practicing idolatry is certainly sinful. Yet, one who consumed meat that was sinfully offered to an idol is not blameworthy (culpable) for the offense of the idolater. Sequentially, idolatry occurs before eating, but guilt for idolatry is not transferred to one who eats meat. The idolater commits sin in every instance of sacrifice. The one eating does not commit sin in every instance (1 Corinthians 8). Concerning abortion and vaccines, once death has occurred, what can one do with the body? Must one only bury or cremate it? Could one look at the corpse, take a picture of the corpse, look at the tissue with a microscope, or freeze a sample of the tissue? Since sin does not inhere in the flesh, all of these options could be moral.
10) What about the moral issues surrounding the exchange of money for fetal tissue? If researchers or developers pay for fetal tissue, is this blood money?
Shortly before Jesus was crucified, He was betrayed by Judas through the Jews for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). Later, when Judas claimed he had betrayed innocent blood, the Jews refused to put those funds into the treasury, because it was blood money (Matthew 27:3-10; Deuteronomy 23:18). The Jews then went and purchased the “Field of Blood” (Matthew 27:8). Was the purchase of the field with the “blood money” or the reception of the blood money by the owner of the field sinful? The Jews on that occasion apparently did not believe so, and Deuteronomy 23:18 did not say so. Researchers and developers are complicit in evil if they are intentionally and directly funding evil (Romans 1:32). For example, if a researcher or manufacturer were paying a woman to have an abortion or paying abortion providers to electively abort, they would be complicit in encouraging evil. If funding directly causes one abortion, it is one too many. But once that evil is committed, sin does not inhere in the flesh nor pass to everyone who handles the dead flesh. While one can certainly sin in acts with the deceased (e.g., necrophilia), one can also benefit from the deceased (e.g., organ donation).
11) Do vaccines made from aborted fetuses financially support wicked organizations like Planned Parenthood?
Legislation prohibits that from happening.13 Federal law prohibits Planned Parenthood from receiving money to terminate a pregnancy for research purposes. They cannot receive “inducements, monetary or otherwise” to terminate a pregnancy for research.14 Further, Federal law prohibits “any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.”15 What this means, practically, is that researchers, vaccine or otherwise, are forbidden by law from encouraging or persuading an abortion to occur. Once an abortion has occurred, payment may be received for expenses (not for profit) associated with “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”16 Planned Parenthood, therefore, legally cannot profit from the dispersal of human fetal tissue for vaccine research, and payment for fetal tissue is expressly forbidden by U.S. law.
12) By refusing to accept certain vaccines, would it promote the demise of organizations like Planned Parenthood?
In short, the answer is no. Planned Parenthood cannot legally profit from the dispersal of human fetal tissue, so receiving a vaccine or not receiving a vaccine made from human fetal tissue would not financially help or hinder the organization. Further, even if everyone stopped using vaccines from fetal cell lines, elective abortions would still occur.
13) Even if one is not blameworthy (culpable) for the death of the child, is it wrong for others to benefit from the death in some way?
One should never do evil that good may come (Romans 3:8). Further, one would not advocate for one to continue in sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1-2). Yet, what man means for evil, God can use for good. Joseph’s brothers meant evil for him, yet God used their evil to bless Joseph and the family and, subsequently, was able to preserve a nation (Genesis 50:20). In the case of Christ, man intended evil and destruction for Christ on the cross of Calvary (Acts 4:26-29), yet God brought glory, forgiveness, triumph, and victory for mankind (1 Corinthians 1; 15).
11 David Stearsman (2013), “Is the Conscience a Safe Guide?” Kenyon, Brian. Ed. Do You Understand Biblical Morality, Florida School of Preaching, Lakeland.
12 Daniel Sulmasy (2008),“What is the conscience and why is respect for it so important?” Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 29:135-149.
13 President Reagan convened a Fetal Tissue Transplantation Panel in 1988. The chair of this panel, along with several members opposed abortion rights. This panel recommended that “the question of donation not be addressed until after a woman had decided she was going to end the pregnancy” (Charo 890-891). Further, “It also endorsed the law that prohibited tissue sale for profit (reimbursement of costs was permissible) and recommended that women not be allowed to direct tissue for transplantation to particular people” (Charo 891). See R. Charo (2015), “Fetal Tissue Fallout,” New England Journal of Medicine, 373;10: 890-91, September 3.