Pitt to get 2% state funding increase; House Republicans file amendment to avert fetal tissue research


Harvey Barrison

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Harvey Barrison | Flickr

By Jon Moss, News Editor

As budget week bears down on Harrisburg, state House Republicans filed an amendment to Pitt’s funding bill Monday evening meant to prevent the university from using state funding for fetal tissue research. The story was first reported by the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

The policy would follow in the footsteps of President Trump’s actions earlier this month to limit federally-funded fetal tissue research. The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced on June 5 it would cancel a research contract with the University of California, San Francisco which involved human fetal tissue from elective abortions.

Scientists say fetal tissue is critical for some research studies which can positively impact millions of people, while anti-abortion activists have long argued against the practice.

Pitt, through its status as a state-related university, receives an annual appropriation from the Commonwealth to offset some tuition costs for in-state students and for rural education programs. The University requested a 6.5% increase in funding for the upcoming year, but an earlier amended appropriations bill passed unanimously Monday by the House Appropriations Committee allocates a 2% increase. The earlier amended bill, which faces a full House vote Tuesday, said commonwealth appropriations can only be used for costs incurred through “instruction for graduate and undergraduate students,” as well as costs from “providing student-related services and community outreach services.”

Mike Straub, a spokesperson for House Republicans, said the bloc considered fetal tissue research a violation of the commonwealth’s Abortion Control Act, which outlaws the use of commonwealth funding for abortions.

“From the perspective of state dollars… you know, our members have a lot of issues with state dollars going towards research in a way that violates state law,” Straub said. “In the eyes of our members, and in potentially the courts, you’re walking a dangerous slope if you’re using taxpayer funds to buy aborted fetuses.”

Straub added that he was not aware of any proposals to completely cut off Pitt’s funding if the University engaged in fetal tissue research.

Kevin Zwick, a Pitt spokesperson, said the University is working with legislators in Harrisburg.

A spokesperson for Rep. Dan Frankel, D-23 did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This story has been updated with comment from House Republicans and Pitt.