The Lead

House Republicans ponder rider cutting funding to Pitt to prevent fetal tissue research

By: - June 24, 2019 2:49 pm

As part of budget negotiations, Republicans are considering whether to add language that would cut state funding to the University of Pittsburgh if it participates in fetal tissue research.

The proposal piggybacks on a policy push from President Donald Trump’s administration announced earlier this month to end federal government funding for medical research using fetal tissue.

The Washington Examiner, a conservative newspaper, published a piece soon after that brought up to a 2012 study conducted by University of Pittsburgh medical researchers.

Pitt is a state-related institution, meaning it is partially funded with public dollars while also maintaining a multi-billion dollar endowment.

The study looked at it using fetal liver tissue to address “end-stage chronic liver failure,” according to a letter obtained by the Capital-Star from Pitt Vice Chancellor Paul Suppowitz to House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster.

The hope was a fetal tissue transfer could help liver transplant patients survive longer while waiting for a new organ.

According to the letter, the research concluded in 2013, was conducted in Italy, and funded by a grant from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center — not public money.

Bills to fund the state-related universities are known as non-preferred appropriations, and require a two-thirds majority to pass.

No amendments were filed as of Monday afternoon, but Cutler said that preventing the state dollars from going to fetal tissue studies might be necessary to garner support for Pitt’s appropriation this year, and that “the discussion is ongoing.”

On Monday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee ended up adding a measure to make sure that funds appropriated by the state can only be used for costs directly related to undergraduate and graduate instruction, providing student services, or community outreach.

Some House Democrats had signaled that a strict rider would cost them their support.

This story was updated at 3:12 p.m., 6/24/19 with additional information.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.