From 1997 to 2002, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) forced children in the foster care system of New York to take experimental medication that made them severely ill and had potentially lethal side effects. In 1997, Pfizer conducted an illegal drug trial on two hundred children in Nigeria that left fifty children dead and many others with severe brain damage and paralysis. Between 1932 and 1972, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted an illegal study of syphilis patients at the Tuskegee Institute, which resulted in the death of 128 of the study participants.
The history of medicine is replete with examples of people being ruthlessly subjected to unethical testing. The potential for amassing wealth from drug sales has often proven to be too great a temptation for those in the medical profession, and countless innocent lives have been lost as a result. When these practices are exposed, we are understandably outraged, and the demand for justice echoes around the globe. Unless, that is, the victims of this injustice were killed before they were even born.
The Unethical Source of Fetal Cells for Vaccines
When we think of the above examples of unethical medical trials, our consciences assure us that they were wrong. We have a visceral gut reaction to them, and we are appalled to think that men could be so depraved that they would do such things. But why do we not have the same kind of reaction to the use of fetal cells from abortions?
The answer may lie in the fact that the atrocities committed in this type of research are largely hidden from the public. The effects of other types of unethical research are broadcast in news reports in great detail, often with pictures of the victims, but the slaughter of prenatal children to develop fetal cell lines is seldom reported at all and practically never in any detail. The average American has no idea how these cell lines are developed. They realize that the cells are derived from abortions, but that’s usually the extent of their awareness of one of the greatest medical atrocities ever conceived.
There are several fetal cell lines that are currently being used in medical research in the US. They are known by crude scientific designations like: WI-38, MRC-5, HEK293, PER.C6, and Walvax-2. With the exception of WI-38, all of these cell lines were developed from the murder of perfectly healthy children. The development process for each of these lines is presented below:
The WI-38 cell line was developed as a means to create a vaccine for the rubella virus in the early 1960’s. A certain Dr. Plotkin had studied the attempts to develop a vaccine using animal cell lines, and he came up with the idea of killing a child already infected with the virus in order to develop a human cell line for the vaccine. He found his victim in the child of a 25-year-old mother who had been exposed to rubella. Dr. Plotkin recounted that “the fetus was surgically aborted 17 days after the maternal illness and dissected immediately.” When Plotkin used the term “surgically aborted,” he was most likely referring to a c-section delivery of a living child of twenty-five weeks who was immediately killed and dissected in order to harvest his organs and develop a vaccine for the rubella virus that he was carrying.
Shortly after the “success” of the WI-38 cell line, another doctor, Dr. Jacobs, began developing a competing line. His victim was “a 14-week male foetus removed for psychiatric reasons from a 27-year-old woman.” Dr. Jacobs extracted a healthy child from the womb and immediately killed and dissected him in order to use the child’s lung tissue as a culture for growing viruses.
HEK293 was developed from a human kidney that was obtained by a Dr. van der Eb in 1972. Dr. van der Eb provided information on the source of the kidney in a 2001 meeting of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. Dr. van der Eb recounted that “[t]he fetus, as far as I can remember was completely normal. Nothing was wrong.” Thus, Dr. van der Eb admitted that he had killed a perfectly healthy child for the purpose of harvesting that child’s organs for medical research. Dr. van der Eb recounted the removal of the kidneys from the body of his victim, stating that “the kidneys were then minced with scissors” before being exposed to a virus culture.
Dr. van der Eb is also responsible for the creation of the PER.C6 cell line. In this case, Dr. van der Eb killed a child in 1985 so that he could harvest the child’s retina. He described his victim with these words:
“So I isolated [a] retina from a fetus, from a healthy fetus as far as could be seen, of 18 weeks old. There was nothing special with a family history or the pregnancy was completely normal up to the 18 weeks, and it turned out to be a socially indicated abortus, abortus provocatus, and that was simply because the woman wanted to get rid of the fetus.”
In other words, Dr. van der Eb found a woman who wanted to murder her healthy child, assisted her in that murder, and then removed the child’s eyes so that he could use one of the retinas for scientific experimentation.
The Walvax-2 cell line is the most recently developed fetal cell line, and consequently, the one about which we have the most information. This cell line was developed in China in 2015, and it cost the lives of nine healthy children. The Walvax team described their victims in this manner:
“We obtained 9 fetuses through rigorous screening based on carefully specified inclusion criteria ... Walvax-2 was derived from a fetal lung tissue, similar to WI-38 and MRC-5, and was obtained from a 3-month old female fetus aborted because of the presence of a uterine scar from a previous caesarean birth by a 27-year old healthy woman ... The fetal material was provided by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Yunnan Hospital ... Before the study, we made strict and comprehensive inclusion criteria in order to guarantee a high quality cell strain: 1) gestational age 2 to 4 months; 2) induction of labor with the water bag method; 3) the parents career should not involve contact with chemicals and radiation; 4) both parents are in good health without neoplastic and genetic diseases, and with no history of human tissue or organ transplantation in the families traced for 3 generations; and 5) no infectious diseases. The tissues from the freshly aborted fetuses were immediately sent to the laboratory for the preparation of the cells.”
The water bag method mentioned here entails filling the mother's uterus with saline water and floating the baby out of the mother's body, where he can then be immediately dissected alive. The Walvax team dissected nine living children to determine which of their bodies would make the best candidate for vaccine development.
When reading these accounts, most of us will experience the same level of visceral reaction that that we felt when reading about other unethical medical trials. Once we realize that these cell lines were created through the murder and dissection of healthy children, our consciences cry out to us that this is one of the greatest evils ever to be imagined by men. But why is this so? Is this reaction merely an emotional response, or is it the recognition of an actual evil? And if the latter is true, is it wrong for us to take vaccines that were developed through the use of these fetal cell lines?
The Biblical Argument Against Using Fetal Cells for Vaccine Research
1. It is wrong to kill another human being.
The biblical argument against using fetal cells for vaccine research is grounded firmly on the prohibition against killing given in Exodus 20:13 – “Thou shalt not kill.” This prohibition is accompanied by three exceptions. Killing is permitted when it is necessary for self-defense (Exodus 22:2). It is permitted under the rules of ethical warfare (Deuteronomy 20:10-13). And an executioner is permitted to take the life of a human being who has been properly convicted of a capital offense (Deuteronomy 17:6). All other forms of killing are wrong. There is no exception for killing one person in order to make life better for countless others.
The idea that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” was adopted from pagan philosophers like Voltaire. This concept has no correlation in Scripture, and it should have no place in the hearts and minds of Christians. The biblical principle is that any killing of a human being outside of the three exceptions is wrong.
Given this principle, we can conclude that the Pfizer trial which killed fifty children in Nigeria was immoral. Everyone who assisted in that trial knowing that it was illegal is guilty of murder. They killed human beings for reasons outside of the three exceptions given in the Bible.
In like manner, all of those who knowingly assisted in the death and dismemberment of the children killed to develop the above fetal cell lines are also guilty of murder. They also killed human beings for reasons outside of the three exceptions found in the Bible. They are murderers, and they should be treated as such.
One might ask “Weren’t these children going to be aborted anyway?” Jesus directly addressed this type of excuse when He said: "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Matthew 18:7) A man who kills a child is still guilty of murder even if the death of that child was unavoidable. God doesn’t accept “someone had to do it” as an excuse.
2. It is sinful to give murderers a lesser punishment than death.
In each of the first five books of the Bible, God repeated His instruction for governments to punish those who take innocent human lives (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12-14, Leviticus 24:17, Numbers 35:30-33, and Deuteronomy 19:11-13). This is not optional. It is not a preference that God established just for Israel. It is a universal command which applies to every government that ever has been or ever will be established among men. Every government has a duty before God to protect human life by punishing those who take it. This is why the Declaration of Independence refers to the right to life as an unalienable right. No government has the authority to choose not to protect human life, and any law which claims such authority ceases to be a law at all and should not be allowed to be codified as such.
But God didn’t just demand that human governments punish murderers. He went much further than that. God actually made it a sin for a government to allow a murderer to be punished with anything less than the death penalty. We can find the statement of this sin in Numbers 35:30-33. There we read:
"Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it."
The sin of murder is so grievous in the eyes of God that He demands that all governments make the crime of murder a capital offense. There are to be no exceptions. Everyone who intentionally kills another human being is to be put to death.
Thus, those responsible for killing black men in Alabama as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment should receive capital punishment for their crimes. They may claim that their actions ultimately saved many more lives than were lost, but that does not absolve them of their crimes. They are guilty of murder, and God demands that they be put to death because of it.
The same is true of the “doctors” who killed prenatal children in order to dissect their bodies to develop fetal cell lines for vaccine research. No matter how many lives they may claim to have saved, they are still guilty of murder, and God demands that they be put to death because of their crimes.
3. Consenting to the death of an innocent human being is sinful.
It is well established in the field of law that those who know of a crime and give their consent to it have a share in the guilt for that crime. Receiving stolen property, for example, is a crime in all fifty states. If an individual knows that an item is stolen, but he accepts it from the thief as either a gift or a purchase, the one receiving that item also receives a share of the guilt for the crime. But this is not just a principle of law. It is also a principle that is taught in Scripture.
Proverbs 29:24 and Psalm 50:18 both illustrate this principle in light of stolen property. In Psalm 50:18, God condemned a man as wicked because he witnessed a theft and consented with the thief, and in Proverbs 29:24, God concluded that a man who has knowledge of a theft and keeps that knowledge to himself is a partner with a thief. Those who knowingly purchase stolen property are not just breaking the law, they are also committing a sin against God.
The same is true of the sin of murder. When Stephen was stoned to death, the Bible tells us that Saul stood by and gave his consent to the crime (Acts 8:1), but this was not just a mere narration of events. This statement was a condemnation of Saul’s actions as sinful, and Paul later recognized this fact when he listed his consent to Stephen’s death as one of his sins against the church (Acts 22:20).
In Hosea 6:8-9, God condemned Gilead for the murders committed there, but He also condemned the priests by saying that "the company of priests murder in the way by consent." The priests of Gilead were not the ones committing the murders, but they were guilty because of their consent.
And in Proverbs 1:10-19, God warns us “if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” The consent being condemned here is identified in verse 14 as giving monetary support for the crime. We are warned against using our money in support of “one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof” (vs. 19). Funding and consenting to murder and theft is just as much a sin as committing the acts themselves.
If someone from Pfizer were to approach us and ask us for money to fund another drug trial similar to the one they conducted in Nigeria in 1997, it would be wrong for us to give any money toward that venture. If we were asked to help fund a project subjecting children in foster care to illegal drug testing, it would be wrong for us to consent to the deed. If we were asked to funnel money into a secret government project that was intentionally allowing people to die from a treatable disease, it would be wrong for us to comply with that request. We all recognize this as true. Those who knowingly invest even the smallest amount in such projects share in the guilt.
The same is true of the murder of innocent children in order to develop fetal cell lines for vaccines. If we were approached by a doctor with a request that we help him fund a new lab dedicated to killing children and using their bodies to develop more vaccines, it would be wrong for us to give him a single penny (I Corinthians 5:6-8).
Does the guilt of consent become any less if he asks us to fund his lab after it has been built instead of before? Is there any difference between paying him for the vaccines he produces from the bodies of his victims and directly paying him to kill his victims? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding no. One who receives stolen property is still guilty of consenting to the theft even though he pays for the goods after the crime has been committed. So also, those who fund the murder of children for the development of vaccines are still guilty even if they withhold their funding until after the vaccine is available.
Ethical Alternatives are Available
Those attempting to justify the use of fetal cell lines to develop vaccines often claim that we have no alternative means of developing these much-needed vaccines. This claim is false. Including COVID-19, there are only seven diseases for which vaccines using fetal cell lines are used in the US. Of those seven, only COVID-19 and rubella do not have an ethically derived alternative already available, and these two only lack an ethical alternative because there is not a strong enough incentive for the manufacturers to develop one. In fact, ethical vaccines for both rubella and COVID-19 are already available in other countries and would be available in the US if enough American consumers demanded them.,
In a testimony before Congress, Dr. Tara Sander Lee pointed out that there are many alternatives to using unethical fetal cell lines. She explained that equally useful cell lines can be derived from cord blood, placenta donations, biopsies, surgical specimens, maternal bone marrow, adult somatic cells, and spontaneous miscarriages. There are an abundant number of sources for ethically derived cell lines for vaccine development. There is no reason for medical researchers to use unethical cell lines except for the fact that it is cheaper to develop cell lines from children killed specifically for that purpose than it is to develop lines from other sources.
(Click here for more information on ethical COVID-19 vaccines)
To summarize, the biblical argument against using vaccines that were developed with fetal cell lines can be expressed in the following syllogism:
1. It is wrong to kill another human being for reasons outside of the exceptions listed in Scripture.
2. Killing a human being for the purpose of using his body to develop vaccines is not one of the exceptions listed in Scripture.
3. Therefore, it is wrong to kill a human being for the purpose of using his body to develop vaccines.
4. Those who knowingly consent to an immoral act have a share in the guilt for that immoral act.
5. Knowingly receiving the products of an immoral act is the same as knowingly consenting to that act.
6. A vaccine developed as a result of killing a human being for the purpose of using his body to develop vaccines is the product of an immoral act.
7. Therefore, those who knowingly receive a vaccine developed in this manner have knowingly consented to an immoral act and have a share in the guilt for that act.
As Christians, we have a duty to publicly oppose the works of darkness (Eph 5:11), and there is no darkness greater than the murder of innocent children for profit. We are forbidden from having any affiliation with such evil. If we find ourselves so fearful of death that we begin justifying such an affiliation, we would do well to remember the words of C. S. Lewis when the Christians of his generation were faced with the new fear of atomic warfare.
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
It is our prayer that God would give the Christians of our generation this same attitude toward the threat of COVID-19 and other viruses, but what about those of us who have already received one of these unethical vaccines? We need only confess our sin, and God will be faithful to His promise to forgive us (I John 1:9). God’s mercy and compassion never fails (Lamentations 3:22-23), but He does warn us against using His forgiveness as an excuse for sin (I Peter 2:16). We are to seek forgiveness when we sin, and then “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
[Special thanks to Lucas Jordan for his assistance with studying this issue and for his many contributions to the final article.]
 Plotkin et al, “Studies of Immunization with Living Rubella Virus,” Amer J Dis Child, Vol 110, Oct 1965 https://cogforlife.org/AmJDisChildPlotkinRubellaVirus.pdf
 Jacobs et al, “Characteristics of a Human Diploid Cell Designated MRC-5,” Nature, Vol 227, July 11, 1970 https://cogforlife.org/NatureJacobsMRC-5.pdf
 Van der Eb, Alex, Transcript: USFDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, May 16, 2001, pg 81 https://web.archive.org/web/20170516050447/https://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/01/transcripts/3750t1_01.pdf
 Ibid, pg 82
 Ibid, pg 91
 Ma et al, “Characteristics and viral propagation properties of a new human diploid cell line, walvax-2, and its suitability as a candidate cell substrate for vaccine production,” Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, Vol 11, April 2015, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/21645515.2015.1009811
 Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II 93.3 ad 2
 College of Physicians of Philadelphia, “Human Cell Strains in Vaccine Development,” The History of Vaccines, Jan. 10, 2018, https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/human-cell-strains-vaccine-development
 Sander Lee, Tara, Ph.D., “Written Testimony of Tara Sander Lee, Ph.D., in Support of Ethical Alternatives to Aborted Fetal Tissue Research,” Dec. 13, 2018, https://lozierinstitute.org/written-testimony-of-tara-sander-lee-ph-d-in-support-of-ethical-alternatives-to-aborted-fetal-tissue-research/
 “COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates and Abortion-Derived Cell Lines,” Charlotte Lozier Institute, https://lozierinstitute.org/update-covid-19-vaccine-candidates-and-abortion-derived-cell-lines/
 Lewis, CS, “On Living in an Atomic Age,” Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays, 1948, https://books.google.com/books?id=0QlI-Sn-euIC&ots=bI7SZnwY8N&pg=PA73
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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