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Friday, May 27, 2016

Ind. Courts - Still more on "IU goes to court to oppose new fetal tissue law"

Updating this ILB post from yesterday, here is a long, important May 26th story by Rick Seltzer in Inside Higher Ed headed "Turning Research Into a Felony: Indiana U says important research on Alzheimer's disease is imperiled by new state abortion law." It begins:

Indiana University on Wednesday challenged a new state abortion law in federal court, arguing it restricts academic freedom by criminalizing the acquisition or transfer of fetal tissue used for research.

The move stands out because the university is challenging the actions of the state that supports it. The dispute also comes at a time when many state and federal legislators are proposing laws to curtail abortion. And it arrives as lawmakers scrutinize fetal tissue research in the wake of a series of controversial videos released in 2015 showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of fetal tissue.

The Indiana law in question was approved as House Bill 1337 in March, and it goes into effect at the beginning of July. Its provisions include requiring miscarried and aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated. Other parts of the law prohibit individuals from acquiring, receiving, selling or transferring fetal tissue. It makes the transfer or collection of fetal tissue a felony punishable by up to six years in prison.

Supporters of the law have argued it is a moral move affirming the value of human life. But IU leaders claim it leaves the university in an untenable position. The university legally obtained fetal tissue for important research, they said. Yet the law would leave it trapped with that tissue and unable to transfer it, putting its researchers at legal risk.

The law would also prohibit any researchers from obtaining additional fetal tissue for future needs.

Indiana is arguing the law is unconstitutionally vague and burdensome. The university’s complaint also said the law violates the First Amendment academic freedom rights of Debomoy Lahiri, a professor of psychiatry and a primary investigator for its Stark Neurosciences Research Institute in Indianapolis. IU and Lahiri conduct Alzheimer’s disease research using mixed cell cultures and components like RNA and DNA derived from fetal tissue.

Their projects include research funded by the National Institutes of Health, which requires researchers to retain samples they use, IU said in its complaint. The NIH requires researchers to share those samples upon request so that their work can be verified. But that would mean transferring fetal material, making it impossible for IU to comply with both the new law and NIH regulations, the university said.

The story also provided a link to the IU May 25th complaint, which the ILB has made available here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 27, 2016 08:54 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts