David Barton (left); Eric Metaxas (right)
In addition to history, David Barton often tries his hand at distorting other subjects as well. On his Wallbuilders Live program (which is taped) yesterday, Barton said the following about vaccines:
This is a big fight that’s going on now with the vaccinations. There’s a whole bunch of people that do not like their kids participating in vaccinations for several reasons. One is that so many vaccinations now contain parts of aborted fetuses. So, just as a matter of conscience, “I don’t want that in my kid.”
That’s The Government Getting Involved
And then there’s so many bad things happening from the newer vaccinations. We think we have to have a vaccination for everything now. If somebody gets sick, we’ve got to create a vaccination. And that’s just not accurate. That’s the government getting involved and it’s having bad consequences.
Apparently, Barton is a big fan of people getting sick and opposes medical progress. The only bad consequences come from people listening to nonsense like this and failing to immunize their children. Currently, measles cases are on the rise with more cases reported this year already than all of last year.
Pro-Life = Anti-Vax?
Associating the anti-vax propaganda with a pro-life position would be a ideological win for anti-vaxxers. That is why Barton’s distortion of the facts requires a response. If pro-life people think that actual fetal parts from abortions are in vaccines, some might refuse vaccinations on that basis. What is the real situation?
In fact, vaccine methods were developed from cells derived from fetuses secured via therapeutic abortions before abortion was legal. The two cell lines in use today came from two subsequent abortions outside the U.S. Fetal cells allow the development of vaccine production indefinitely. As far as I can determine, the abortions were not conducted for the purpose of making vaccines, and no new abortions have taken place to create new vaccines. In other words, vaccines don’t encourage abortion, nor do vaccines use parts of a fetus in the vaccine (see this helpful summary for more information).
If vaccine use was a moral concern for a pro-life position, one would expect the Catholic Church to forbid vaccines. However, the conservative National Catholic Bioethics Center allows the use of vaccines developed from aborted fetuses.
Are there any vaccines for which there are no alternatives?
Unfortunately, at present there are no alternative vaccines available in the United States against rubella (German measles), varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis A. All of these are grown in the cell lines WI-38 and/or MRC-5. (See note #7 of the statement of the Pontifical Academy for Life for a listing of vaccines and their source).
What do I do if there is no alternative to a vaccine produced from these cell lines?
One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern 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 reasons that the risk to the life and health of one’s own children as well as other people’s children make vaccination the greater good. The NCBC also acknowledges that there are no parts of aborted fetuses in the vaccines.
What does it mean when we say that these products are made in “descendent cells”?
Descendent 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 that descendent cells are not the cells of the aborted child. They never, themselves, formed a part of the victim’s body.
How does one know when a particular vaccine has an association with abortion?
The cell lines WI-38, MRC-5 and Walvax-2 are derived from tissue from aborted fetuses. Any product grown in these cell lines, therefore, has a distant association with abortion. The cells in these lines have gone through multiple divisions before they are used in vaccine manufacture. After manufacture, the vaccines are removed from the cell lines and purified. One cannot accurately say that the vaccines contain any of the cells from the original abortion.
Leaving aside the reasons for the original abortions (they may have been to safeguard the health of the mother), any current cells from these cell lines were never a part of the aborted fetus. There are no parts of a fetus in a vaccine.
I don’t know if Barton’s words were ignorance or a deliberate attempt to distort the facts in order to discourage vaccinations. However, it would be a very dangerous development if anti-vax propaganda became aligned with a standard pro-life position. He should retract what he said.
Hat tip to RWW for pointing this out.