The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed Pitt’s annual funding bill by a vote of 167 to 34 late Tuesday evening. The University will receive a funding increase of 2%, or $3,471,000, compared to last year, bringing the total to $154,853,000.
The bill was amended late Monday by state House Republicans in an effort to prevent the University from using state funding for fetal tissue research. The bill, which now heads to the state Senate, 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, consistent with existing laws of this Commonwealth.”
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, and it is unclear how Pitt will resolve the multi-million dollar hole in its budget since it received less than it asked for.
Kevin Zwick, a Pitt spokesperson, said Pitt is “grateful” for the appropriation and looks forward to working with the state Senate as the bill moves toward being signed into law.
“We’re grateful to the House for their support that will aid our efforts to provide access to a high-quality education to Pennsylvania students,” Zwick said in an email late Tuesday evening. “The new language is consistent with the authorizing statute that made Pitt a state-related university. It simply describes how this funding is and has always been used.”
The policy follows in the footsteps of President Donald 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.
Mike Straub, a spokesperson for House Republicans, said Monday 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 said Tuesday the amendment ensures taxpayer money is never used in a way that may violate state law.
“The overwhelming passage of the bill and the increase in funding shows the commitment among our members to support the University of Pittsburgh and all higher education in our Commonwealth,” Straub said.
A spokesperson for Rep. Dan Frankel, D-23, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.