No, David Barton, Vaccines Don’t Contain Parts of Aborted Fetuses

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. 

24 thoughts on “No, David Barton, Vaccines Don’t Contain Parts of Aborted Fetuses”

      1. A lot of them are. But many are fringe right rural Trump voters also. Anti vaccination nut jobs truely cross party lines.

  1. I don’t know if Barton’s words were ignorance or a deliberate attempt to distort the facts in order to discourage vaccinations.

    I would call it willful ignorance. Just as with his many other distortions and lies, no doubt people have told him he’s completely wrong more than once, but he refuses to listen, because the facts don’t fit with his political agenda.

    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.

    I understand your concerned (even though I’m pro-choice) but frankly, this aborted fetuses in vaccines nonsense has been going on for so long I think most of the damage has already been done. If you’re the type of Christian who takes Barton seriously, there’s a good chance you’re already an anti-vaxxer.

    Of course, it would be great if Barton would help dispel the myth, but that’s expecting way too much, I’m afraid.

  2. After reading WT’s article, it seems to me there is at least some basis for Barton’s claim in “the fruit of the poisionous tree” sense.

    Without the abortions, the vaccine would not exist.

    The Catholic Church’s statement doesn’t give a stamp of moral approval to the vaccines, but argues that the greater good is served by ignoring the origins of the vaccines.

    Barton greatly exaggerates the issue, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the vaccine’s origin, which is…troubling.

    In the short term, the advice of the Catholic Church is probably the right one to follow. In the long term, a medium needs to be found that doesn’t have it’s origin in an aborted human being.

    1. Barton doesn’t argue this, he argues there are fetus parts in the vaccines. This isn’t true.

      I can’t understand why people want to give Barton credit he doesn’t deserve. If he made the Catholic argument I wouldn’t have posted about it.

      1. Yes, he got it technically wrong. He should have said: the vaccine is incubated in a medium derived from fetus parts.

        But, can’t people have legitimate moral qualms about that?

        1. Again, I would not have written the post if all he did was express moral qualms. if he came down on the side of anti-vaxing, I would have written a post and disagreed with linking a pro-life position with avoiding vaccines but I wouldn’t have faulted him on his accuracy.

          I don’t know why this is unclear. Through ignorance or deceit, he distorted the facts to put humans at risk for illness and potential death. Why the need to defend an argument he didn’t make?

        2. The cells involved are generations 40 years detached from the original fetal cells. They are as to “fetal parts” as much as your own cells are. And it should be again stated that in any case, these were therapeutic abortions. If people want to have moral qualms about that then they will need to also have qualms about a large part of our basic, early medical knowledge because it came through some pretty morally questionable means.

          Your comments are addendums to the same sort of deceptive wordplay Barton is using, and for which he is notorious. If you want to do that, let’s at least call it what it is – dangerous and provocative lies. It is obvious why the attention seeking Barton has interjected himself into the current deadly anti-vax phenomenon, but why anyone would want to support this is beyond my understanding.

        3. The the vaccine was produced it was derived from fetus parts but that was 40 years ago. After two to three generations of cells this became untrue.

    2. Without the abortions, the vaccine would not exist.

      That’s not true. Without the abortions, the vaccine would have undoubtedly been developed anyway, but at this point, it would be just dumb (and needlessly costly) to re-engineer the entire vaccine production line to deal with what is (or should be) a total non-issue.

  3. So, David Barton knows as much about medicine as he does about history? Also, he’s willing to distort what he knows (unless he is just abysmally ignorant) to suit his own ends, even if those ends mean that people–especially children–may end up very ill, physically damaged, or dead, if their parents listen to him? How does he sleep at night?

  4. David Barton continues to Lie For Jesus. No, I’m not going to chalk it up to ignorance.

  5. This dude is Bizarr-ton. Sounds like he might be mixing vaccination matters with antibiotic issues in part of it, but then the whole thing about it being government overreach (to take measures on behalf of its citizens safety, no less) makes me wonder what he thinks are the proper limits of government action, and how he justifies his decision.

  6. I don’t know if Barton’s words were ignorance or a deliberate attempt to distort the facts in order to discourage vaccinations.

    If I were a betting man…

    1. But that’s The Party Line!
      Inerrant SCRIPTURE(TM)!

    2. But that’s The Party Line!
      Inerrant SCRIPTURE(TM)!

    3. But that’s The Party Line!
      Inerrant SCRIPTURE(TM)!

    4. With Barton, a pretty good bet in general is BOTH ignorance and deliberate distortion.

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