The Religious Reasons: "You Can't Be Pro-Life And Pro-Vaccine"
By Erin K Costello
"But Aborted Fetal Tissue....."
This is a common battle cry for those against vaccines. Usually it’s just used as a self righteous excuse to argue against vaccines, often times it’s used as an excuse to try for a religious exemption in the states that still allow these, but every so often you come across a genuine Christian who actually believes these claims, and it may even be their only reason for not vaccinating.
What Do They Mean By Aborted Fetal Tissue In Vaccines?
The organic material that is used in the production of some vaccines are cell cultures, or a cell strain.
Cell cultures are cells growing in a culture vessel. In a primary cell, culture cells are taken directly from living tissue having never sub cultivated. The culture may consist of multiple types of cells such as fibroblasts, epithelial, and endothelial cells.
A cell strain is a cell culture that consists of only one type of normal cell and can replicate only finitely. Cell strains can be made by manipulating primary cultures until a single type of cell remains. There are many ways in which to manipulate the primary cultures to achieve isolation of a single type cell; spinning the culture in a centrifuge can cause the cells to separate for example.
By isolating cell strains scientists are then able to grow human pathogens, such as a virus, in the cell strains in efforts to attenuate viruses, or to weaken them. By weakening the viruses they become so altered they are unable to grow well inside the human body. A common way to do this is by repeatedly growing the virus in a human cell strain at lower than normal body temperatures. The virus then adapts to growing and reproducing at the lower temperature, eliminating its ability grow as usual in normal body temperatures. Once this is accomplished and the virus becomes a vaccine, it is then injected into a live person with a normal body temperature. The virus in the vaccine is still able to reproduce enough to activate the immune system response, but can not replicate enough to cause the person illness.
Where Do The Cell Strains Come From?
One cell strain known as WI-38 came from a fetus aborted in the USA during the mid-1960s. The abortion occurred from a mother infected with the rubella virus while pregnant. Rubella is known to cause cataracts, deafness, heart disease, encephalitis, mental retardation, and pneumonia in infants, as well as other conditions. In the mid-1960s was the height of the rubella epidemic in the USA. As a result some pregnant women chose to terminate their pregnancies to eliminate serious risks. The cell strain WI-38 is a product of one such abortions.
The second cell strain, MRC-5, was started using fetal lung cells in 1970 from a maternal choice abortion in the U.K. The methods used in obtaining such cell strains consist of developing such a huge bank of WI-38 and MRC-5 cells that they will ensure vaccine production for several decades from now.
The National Catholic Bioethics Center notes the following in regards to vaccines derived from these cell strains;
"One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of it's historical association with abortion, The reason is that the risk to public health, if one choose not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concerns about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them."
The NCBC further states:
"Descendant cells are the medium in which these vaccines are prepared. The cell lines under consideration were begun using cells taken from one or more fetuses aborted almost 40 years ago. Since that time the cell lines have grown independently. It is important to note the descendant cells are not the cells of the aborted child. They never, themselves, formed a part of the victim's body."
Given this information, along with the positions stated by the NCBC, It can no longer be argued religiously that vaccines are against the Christian faith, anymore than it can be argued that organ donation is against the Christian faith for the appearance of supporting murder, suicide, drunk driving, along with other wrongful death examples. The fetus can not choose abortion anymore than an organ donor can choose to be taken off life support and their organs harvested, minus a signed driver’s license. If the tenets of Christianity include ending suffering and sickness then the tenets of Christianity should also include vaccines.
Of course this is all assuming the Christian faith was created on the belief that abortion is a sin. Personally, I take no position on this argument. And since we are a science page and not a theology page, I will simply link the popular arguments against this portion of the Christian exemption discussion here, here, and here, for those who wish to explore this further.
Lastly, the religious defense we often hear is "God made us all perfect in his image. God doesn't make mistakes." I'm curious, where does God say that there's no room for improvement after all these thousands of years? If God doesn't make mistakes then why provide mankind with a brain that invents medical breakthroughs? If you and yours are so perfectly made in His image then you will be refusing braces for your family, antibiotics for infections, probiotics for gut flora, hair color, tanning, exercise, ANY dental work, organ transplants, blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants, eye glasses, fertility treatments, manicures, shaving.....I could go on and on. If you believe in God, then believe that God gave us intelligence, communication, and science. Who knows? Maybe God IS science?