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The tainted morality of using aborted foetuses to make Covid vaccines


THE most convenient means for growing viruses in the production of vaccines are ‘cell lines’. These are cultures of cells originating from animals or humans which can be multiplied repeatedly. As with the MMR [1] vaccine, the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine are produced in cell lines derived from abortions [2] while Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines used them in testing. [3]

The debate around the morality of foetal tissue vaccines frequently has at its heart three beliefs:

1.    In receiving the vaccine we are not co-operating with past evil;

2.    In receiving the vaccine we are not contributing to present or future evil;

3.    There is almost no connection between the vaccine and the aborted baby.

These beliefs are flawed because they rest upon faulty assumptions. Whichever side you stand on, it’s worth considering the most common ones.

1. ‘Only a few babies were used’

While each individual cell line contains the cells of just one baby, many aborted babies are used in the process of creating a cell line. [4] During a court case where divorced parents were at odds over the vaccination of their child, Stanley Plotkin (known as the ‘Godfather of Vaccines’) gave evidence and admitted that 76 aborted babies were used in just one vaccine study. [5] Furthermore, with cell line WI-25 we know that it was the 25th specimen from the 19th baby. [6]

The two cell strains used by Covid vaccines are named HEK293 and PERC6. [7] The name HEK 293 stands for a Human Embryonic Kidney from the 293rd experiment [8] – we can be confident that more babies preceded the final one used for HEK293. [9]

2. ‘The babies were of a very early gestation’

Most of the babies whose tissue formed the basis of the different vaccine cell lines were more than three months into gestation when aborted. [10] Stanley Plotkin, referred to above, admitted that all of the 76 unborn babies used in a study were three months or older. [11] At three months, a baby is fully formed. [12]

3. ‘Consent was given, so usage is ethical’

Parties to a murder cannot ethically donate the body of their victim to research. Thus it follows that in the case of abortion, no meaningful consent can exist. (Though the mothers involved are often, to varying extents, victims themselves.)

4. ‘The baby was dead when the tissue was taken’

With foetal tissue research, cell death renders the tissue unfit for purpose: tissues and organs must be harvested ‘within 5 minutes’ [13,14] and at times this occurs while the baby’s heart is still beating [15,16] – this was also revealed during a Planned Parenthood court deposition.[17,18]

Thus, harvesting the organs can be a type of torture [19] beyond the normal abortion procedure. Though we have no definitive proof that live harvesting occurred specifically in the making of vaccine cell lines, since it is ‘no rare event’ [20,21,22,23] there are legitimate grounds for concern. [24]

5. ‘Some were from miscarriages’

The requirements for freshness of many human foetal tissues [25] mean it is extremely unlikely any were from miscarriages. [26] ‘To obtain embryo cells, embryos from spontaneous abortions cannot be used . . . ’[27]

6. ‘Using a dead body is distinct from abortion’

Some imagine that those involved in creating the cell lines have nothing to do with the abortion itself. However, in advance of the abortion of a foetus whose tissue will be used for research, a number of steps take place. These include obtaining consent, conducting genetic screening, [28] selecting the abortion method [29] and other steps for optimal harvesting [30], all of which affect the abortionist’s conduct, creating considerable interplay with the agent seeking human material, who thus ‘becomes to some extent an accessory’. [31] A parallel to Saul at Stephen’s stoning [32] exists: Saul didn’t throw a stone, but as a consenting bystander he was not without moral guilt. [33] In cases of live tissue extraction, research is still more directly connected to the death of the child.

7. ‘No one now profits from the abortion’

Companies which developed the cell lines continue to be rewarded by their use, including in vaccines. [34] Thus direct benefit accrues to agents complicit in the original abortion.

8. ‘Vaccines don’t contain the child’s actual cells’

Vaccines produced in cell lines contain fragments [35] of the child’s DNA – one study even found ‘a complete individual genome’ [36] of the aborted child. The divided cells the vaccine was grown in would have been the child’s as she grew. [37,38]

9. ‘No extra abortions are necessary’

Many imply that foetal cell strains are ‘immortal’ and can thus be used for ever, meaning that no future abortions will be necessary. Normal cell strains are in fact ‘mortal’ [39] – they are bound by something known as the ‘Hayflick Limit’. [40] In simple terms, Leonard Hayflick, another vaccine founding father, discovered that healthy cell lines share the same essential limits common to all human cells: they can be multiplied only around 50 times before dying or becoming cancerous. Since it has been shown cell lines such as HEK293 do eventually become cancerous, [41] they will need replacing just as other early cell strains did. [42] The use of vaccines creates a need for further abortions to replace depleting stocks.

10. ‘The abortions were from decades ago’

Though most abortions for vaccines were from before the 1980s, [43,44] time cannot make abortion moral. Moreover, a Chinese cell line, WALVAX-2, was created in 2015, [45] and as already explained more lines will be necessary.

11. ‘No further babies are suffering as a result’

While foetal tissue vaccines are widely accepted, general foetal harvesting is legitimised and impossible to ban [46,47,48] so it has grown instead.

For example, in 1982 a container of 16,500 foetuses was found at the US home of a former laboratory owner. [49] In 2003, the Dutch company behind HEK293 sought aborted babies as far afield as New Zealand [50] and Australia. [51] Journal articles discuss ‘the fetal tissue economy’ in Britain. [52] In 2019, 2,200 foetuses were found at an abortionist’s home [53] and the court depositions of Planned Parenthood staff [54] showed harvesting continues at scale.

Moreover, opinion polls [55,56,57] and some practice [58] indicate that parents are more likely to choose abortion if ‘medical use’ of a foetus is possible. Thus, if the option of having babies used for medical purposes was not available, fewer future babies would be aborted.

If even a percentage of the 2-3 billion nominal [59] pro-lifers rejected such vaccines, moral alternatives would be found and an ‘ethically, morally and biblically wrong’ [60] industry might end.

12. ‘The greater good outweighs concerns’

To acquiesce in evil against an innocent unwilling victim for the sake of communal blessing enters dark waters – all historical child sacrifice is based on this premise. As Philippa Taylor wrote in TCW some years ago: ‘However, it may then be argued that these baby body parts would otherwise be wasted, thrown away. But not only does this justify abortion, but it is pure utilitarianism, that says pretty well anything is justified as long as the end is (potentially) good. In good medical science the end does not justify the means.’ [61]


From a Judeo-Christian perspective, the God of the Old and New Testament is set apart by not asking for the firstborn of men to die that others might live but instead by giving his own firstborn in man’s place. There seems a potential conflict between ingesting the Lord’s flesh and blood, and that of a baby’s body ‘broken for you’. Foetal tissue vaccines perhaps possess moral taint far beyond that of meat offered to idols.

This article was first published here, and is republished by kind permission.


[1] For an excellent summary of all US and Canadian vaccines with fetal tissue see Children of God for Life’s vaccine list.
In the UK, it is possibly only the MMR vaccine that contains them, and there are two brands: MMRVaxPro and Priorix. Priorix appears on the US & Canada chart: it’s the Rubella component that is troubling (though you might not guess from the Patient Information Leaflet — it appears “amino acids” is the euphemistic term used). In the USA Children of God for Life successfully introduced legislation for fair labelling so parents could be properly informed. Fortunately, the MMRVaxPro Patient Information Leaflet in section 6 describes the “contents of the pack” and there lists production dependencies/ingredients (WI-38 & RA27/3 are both explicitly listed — i.e. fetal tissue cell lines).

[2] 2020-11-11; Prentice, David; Charlotte Lozier Institute; Update: COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates and Abortion-Dervived Cell Lines;

[3] Moderna Development: Moderna Covid-19 Vaccine – Facts – Not Fiction;
See also: Moderna Does Not Use HEK-293 Fetal Cell Line in Ongoing Quality Control or Lot Testing;
2021-01-07; Trasancos, Stacy; Children of God for Life; COVID-19 Vaccine and HEK293: Testing and Production are Ethically Equal.

[4] Retrieved 2020-09-08; Vinnedge, Debra; Children of God for Life; Aborted Fetal Cell Lines;

[5] 2018-01-11; Plotkin, Stanley; Court Deposition; Excerpt answering the question: “In your work related to vaccines, how many fetuses have been part of that work?”;
This figure concerns the 1966 study by Plotkin et al, Cytological and Chromosomal Studies of Cell Strains from Aborted Human Fetuses, Exp Biology, Vol 122. There is some confusion regarding the number, whether 74 (from the results section) or 76 (in the summary) — co-author Plotkin’s statement under oath clarifies by indicating 76 embryos were used.

[6] See table on page 591 of this study: 1961-05-15; Hayflick, L & Moorhead, P; Experimental Cell Research; The Serial Cultivation of Human Diploid Cell Strains;

[7] Retrieved 2020-10-27; Children of God for Life;

[8] Retrieved 2020-10-29; HEK293 Cells: Applications and Advantages;

[9] “If [Frank] Graham wasn’t just working on fetal cell lines during his time at the University of Leiden, it may not have been hundreds of abortions [in the development for HEK293],” [Pamela Acker] added, “but we would need to see his notebooks to know.”
2021-02-19; Baklinski, Pete; Life Site News; Babies were aborted alive, placed in fridge to harvest cell lines used in some vaccines: researcher

[10] See the gestational ages:

[11] 2018-01-11; Plotkin, Stanley; Court Deposition; Excerpt answering the question: “In your work related to vaccines, how many fetuses have been part of that work?”;

[12] ‘Fetal Ultra-Sound: 3 months’;

[13] ‘In order to sustain 95% of the cells, the live tissue would need to be preserved within 5 minutes of the abortion. Within an hour the cells would continue to deteriorate, rendering the specimens useless.’
Dr. C. Ward Kischer, Embryologist and Emeritus Professor of Anatomy; Specialist in Human Embryology, University of Arizona College of Medicine (Tucson, Arizona) Personal interview with Debra Vinnedge 7-02, ALL Conference

[14] “Fetal tissue for transplantation must be ‘harvested’ within a few minutes of delivery… Drugs which reduce fetal physiological activity need to be avoided. The fetus is therefore in as alive and aware a state as possible when being opened.”
1988-03; Alderson, Priscilla; Journal of Medical Ethics; Review: The Foetus as Transplant Donor: Scientific, Social and Ethical Perspectives;

[15] “Human embryos of two and one-half to five months gestation were obtained… They were placed in a sterile container and promptly transported to the virus laboratory of the adjacent Hospital for Sick Children. No macerated specimens were used and in many of the embryos the heart was still beating at the time of receipt in the virus laboratory.”
1952-06; Thicke et al; Cultivation of Poliomyelitis Virus in Tissue Culture; Growth of the Lansing Strain in Human Embryonic Tissue, Canadian Journal of Medical Science, Vol. 30, p231-245;
or more recently:

[16] “In 1974 the great English gyneacologist Dr Ian Donald, who ‘invented’ ultrasound, told me of witnessing modern experiments at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute on large, living aborted babies, cringing with pain.”
1988; Marx, Paul; Confessions of a Pro-Life Missionary; Human Life International

[17] 2019-04-12; Larton, Perri; Court Deposition Planned Parenthood; Intact babies cut by procurement officer;

[18] “I can see hearts that are beating in a POC that is not intact that are beating independently…”
2019-04-12; Larton, Perrin; Court Deposition Planned Parenthood;

[19] It is now suspected that unborn babies feel pain from as early as 3 months
2019-07-11; Derbyshire, Stuart & Brockmann, John; BMJ: Journal of Medical Ethics; Reconsidering fetal pain;

[20] “The first part of this chapter addressed the question of live birth or pre-viable foetuses after the use of different techniques of termination and suggested that this is no rare event.”
1987; McCullagh, Peter; Wiley & Sons; The Foetus as Transplant Donor: Scientific, Social and Ethical Perspectives, p115-116.

[21] ‘Obstetricians and gynaecologists are well aware of the increasing number of fetuses which are born alive, because of the increased use of prostaglandins’
1976-10; Nathanson, Bernard; Hastings Center Report, pp. 11-12.

[22] “The experience of one large American hospital was that 9% of second trimester deliveries induced by prostaglandin alone resulted in live births.”
1979; Pahl, R & Lundy, L; Obstetrics & Gynecology, 53, p587-591; Experience with mid-trimester abortions.

[23] More than 50% of babies removed by hysterotomy (i.e. caesarean section) were born alive: “23 out of 44”.
1961; Kullander, S & Sunden, B; Journal of Endocrinology, 23, 69-77; On the survival and metabolism of normal and hypothermic pre-viable human foetuses.

[24] For more mature reading on this matter, please see our ongoing project to collate the material here:

[25] 1987; McCullagh, Peter; Wiley & Sons; The Foetus as Transplant Donor: Scientific, Social and Ethical Perspectives, p17.

[26] Re: HEK293, miscarriage is highly unlikely for various reasons — please see “How was it obtained?” (page 2): “in all probability the cells were obtained from the embryo of a wilfully induced abortion.”
2006 Autumn; Wong, Alvin; National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly; The ethics of HEK 293;

[27] 1986-04-26; Herranz, Gonzalo; Il Sabato, no.15; A reply to a previous article in the same journal by Paolo Cucchiarelli and Marina Ricci
Professor Herranz was, at the time, President of the Committee of Medical Ethics of Spanish Doctors and Vice-President of the Permanent Committee of Medical Ethics of the European Community
Source: 1999; Pietro Croce, ‘Vivisection or Science’, p86,

[28] “the fetus was chosen by Dr. Sven Gard, specifically for this purpose. Both parents are known, and unfortunately for the story, they are married to each other, still alive and well… There were no familial diseases in the history of either parent, and no history of cancer specifically in the families.”
1969-08; Gamma Globulin Prophylaxis; Inactivated Rubella Virus; Production and Biologics Control of Live Attenuated Rubella Virus Vaccines: Discussion on Session V. Am J Dis Child. 118(2):372–381.

[29] See the comments here on the unethical complicity between doctors and researches for WALVAX-2. This is widespread, I just use WALVAX-2 as a clear recent example.
2015-04; Ma et al; Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics; Characteristics & viral propagation properties of a new human diploid cell line;

[30] “Both cell lines [HEK293 & PERC6 — the two used by Covid vaccines] were made in my lab, and also the cells, the starting material, was prepared by myself at the University of Leiden [i.e. he was on hand at the hospital where the abortions occurred].”
2001-05-16; Meeting transcript; USA FDA: Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research;

[31] “[The] proposition to be discussed holds that individuals embarking on utilization of the aborted foetus for tissue transplantation may do so without incurring any moral opprobrium generated by the abortion. In addressing this proposition it is necessary to differentiate between the morality of the manipulations involved in harvesting transplantable organs or tissues from the aborted fetus and the moral status of the operator undertaking this task. In any sequence of two activities, the opportunity for the second of which is totally dependent on the occurrence of the first, the morality of the second agent’s participation is not necessarily neutral or positive merely because the contents of the second action, assessed in isolation, may be so. Evaluation of the second agent’s position requires information on the extent of any association with the first agent in addition to knowledge about the actual content of the second action…
“I would submit that the demonstration of association of the second agent with the first event, even at a level that falls substantially short of incurring any culpability for it, may suffice to vitiate claims for complete independence from it. Specifically, on the occasion of fetal utilization as a transplant donor, it is common practice for mutual agreement on the timing of initiation of termination procedures to be pre-arranged in order to ensure that those harvesting and utilizing the tissue from the foetus will be prepared. A specific example of the form of interaction that may appear in the course of collaboration to obtain foetal tissues in optimal condition concerns the selection and modification of termination procedures to achieve this end. The existence of such interactions between those performing the termination and those harvesting and transplanting tissue from the fetus is inconsistent with the contention that the second agent enters the situation as one completely free from any association with preceding events. This lack of a total separation is one (of many) ways in which collection of foetal organs differs from the collection of organs from road accident victims.
“Given that some influence relating either to a specific case (for example the timing of termination) or to that class of cases (such as the termination procedure) will indubitably be exerted on the first individual’s activities by the second, the latter becomes to some extent an accessory.”
1987; McCullagh, Peter; Wiley & Sons; The Foetus as Transplant Donor: Scientific, Social and Ethical Perspectives, p17-18, 178, 179-180.

[32] “And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.” The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 22, verse 20

[33] “…moral complicity is best conceptualized as conduct that expressively aligns one with another agent’s wrongdoing. Expressive alignment occurs as a result of one agent expressing a positive desire, attitude, or belief toward another agent’s (a primary agent’s) wrongdoing.”
2003; Parker, Joseph; Rice University; Moral complicity: An expressivist account;

[34] “I realize that this sounds a bit commercial, but PER.C6 were made for that particular purpose [the pharmaceutical industry]. Also, as far as I know, more than 50 different companies have taken license for PER.C6.”
2001-05-16; Meeting transcript; USA FDA: Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research;

[35] Retrieved 2020-10-30; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia;

[36] 2020-04-27; Corvelva; VaccineGate: Priorix Tetra human genome and MRC-5 cell line – comparative study;

[37] “Human diploid cells undergo a number of population doublings inversely proportional to donor age.”
1997-08-01; Hayflick, Leonard; University of California, San Francisco; Mortality and Immortality at the Cellular Level: A review;

[38] Perhaps, for this reason, Leonard Hayflick, the developer of an early cell line used by 2 billion people, has consistently claimed that “the WI-38 embryo’s estate” was a legitimate stakeholder: “a good case could be made for title to WI-38 to be vested in the parents or estate of the embryo from which WI-38 was derived”.
1998-01; Hayflick, Leonard; Experimental Gerontology; A novel technique for transforming the theft of mortal human cells into praiseworthy federal policy;
2018-05-31; Hayflick, Leonard; The Biomedical Scientist; A Controversial Life: Interview with George Wister;

[39] 1965-03; Hayflick, Leonard, Elsevier: Experimental Cell Research; The limited in vitro lifetime of human diploid cell strains;

[40] 2014-07-20; Bartlett, Zane; The Embryo Project Encyclopedia; Leonard Hayflick (1928- );
Or in summary from wikipedia pages: “[Leonard] Hayflick found that only cancer cells are immortal and that normal cells have a mechanism for remembering what replication level they are at. He interpreted his finding that normal cells are mortal, to be an indication of aging at the cellular level.” Leonard Hayflick
Again: “Hayflick was the first to report that only cancer cells are immortal. This could not have been demonstrated until he had demonstrated that normal cells are mortal.” Hayflick Limit

[41] “HEK293 is not a model for normal human cells; these cells are immortalized already by known oncogene but not malignant yet.” 2011-05-23; Kavsan, Iershov & Balynska; BMC Cell Biology; Immortalised cells & one oncogene in malignant transformation
“the tumorigenicity of the HEK 293 cell line reached 100% when the passage exceeded 65, whereas using low-passage (<52) HEK 293 cell line no tumor could be induced under the same condition… more attention should be paid to the passage level of the HEK 293 cell line, especially for vaccine production but the low-passage HEK 293 cell line should be acceptable to regulatory authorities for recombinant virus vector, vaccines, and gene therapy. Meanwhile, we also find that high-passage HEK 293 can be employed as a highly malignant tumor model as its tumorigenicity increases significantly.”
2008-04-18; Shen et al; Elsevier; The tumorigenicity diversification in human embryonic kidney 293 cell line cultured in vitro

[42] “in the early 70’s, the [National Institute of Health] stock of low passage WI-38 cells had become seriously depleted… IMR-90 was developed [to enable] replacing WI-38 within ongoing laboratory programs.”
2004; Coriell; Cell Collections;

[43] 1983-10; Nichols, Warren; PubMed: In Vitro; Characterization of a new human diploid cell line—IMR-91;

[44] Retrieved 2020-10-22;  Creative Biolabs; PER.C6 Cell Lines;

[45] 2015-04; Ma et al; Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics; Characteristics & viral propagation properties of a new human diploid cell line;

[46] “During the Senate sub-committee hearings on Embryonic Stem Cell Research [ESCR], Senator Harry Reid compared the possible benefits of ESCR to the polio vaccine, which used aborted fetal tissue, stating the public had no moral problem with that.”
2000-04-28; Senate subcommittee hearings; Washington DC

[47] In a letter co-signed by 80 Nobel laureates to President Bush, urging federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, one paragraph noted: “For the past 35 years many of the common human virus vaccines — such as measles, rubella, hepatitis A, rabies and poliovirus — have been produced in cells derived from a human fetus to the benefit of tens of millions of Americans. Thus precedent has been established for the use of fetal tissue that would otherwise be discarded.”
2001-02-21; Nobel laureates’ letter to President Bush; Washington Post

[48] President Bush justified his decision in favor of Embryonic Stem Cell Research funding thus: “There is a precedent. The only licensed live chickenpox vaccine used in the United States was developed, in part, from cells derived from research involving human embryos. Researchers first grew the virus in embryonic lung cells, which were later cloned and grown in two previously existing cell lines. Many ethical and religious leaders agree that even if the history of this vaccine raises ethical questions, its current use does not.”
2001-08-12; Bush, George; The New York Times; Stem Cell Science & the Preservation of Life;

[49] 1985-08-29; The New York Times; 16,500 Fetuses to get burial after long fight on funeral;

[50] 2003-05-24; Bingham, Eugene; The New Zealand Herald; Government asked to sanction foetus sale;

[51] 2003-06-10; Wall, Tony; Herald Sun; Foetal tissue for overseas sale;

[52] 2008-12; Kent, Julie; The fetal tissue economy: From abortion clinic to the stem cell laboratory;

[53] 2019-09-14; Taylor, Derrick; New York Times; More Than 2,200 Preserve Fetuses Found at Property of Dead Doctor, Officials Say;

[54] ‘Fetal Trafficking Under Oath’,

[55] 2001-02-23; Does Aborted Fetal Tissue Research Influence a Woman’s Decision to Have An Abortion?;

[56] 1995-09-01; Martin et al; Canadian Medical Association Journal; Fetal tissue transplantation and abortion decisions: a survey of urban women;

[57] 1991-06-17; Morrow, Lance; Time; When One Body Can Save Another;,9171,973182,00.html

[58] 2015-03-26; Pickles, Kate; Daily Mail; Family’s anguish as woman aborts unborn child so she can donate bone marrow to sister battling leukaemia – only to find out they don’t have enough money for transplant;

[59] Wikipedia suggests Christianity has 2.4bn adherents and Islam 1.9bn — though Islamic views diverge, they are broadly pro-life. Even a 10% to 20% loss of distribution might have a profound impact on the commercial and pragmatic viability for fetal tissue vaccines — thus pressuring the industry to switch to ethical production of vaccines.

[60] “I had a previous 18-year career in biomedical research and can attest that the majority of biomedical research is ethically sound. However, basing bioethics on the truths of the Bible, abortion and the associated harvesting and selling of body parts from aborted babies is ethically, morally and biblically wrong.”
2015-07-14; Patrick, Charles; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Modern Day Molech;

[61] 2015-10-15; Taylor, Philippa; The Conservative Woman; Ground-breaking medical research can still be ethical;

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Thomas Seidler
Thomas Seidler
Thomas Seidler is an elder at Hambro Road Baptist Church in south London and is a director of a Christian publishing company. He writes at

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