tuses "seem designed to preclude any medical or social benefits of elective abortion," according to reproductive rights specialist Lori Andrews.18
The first major flap at the federal level over fetal research occurred in the 1970s, when reports surfaced of experiments on live aborted fetuses. The image was so distasteful that it helped Congress to pass the National Research Act in 1974,19 creating the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research (National Commission). Meanwhile, a moratorium was imposed halting all research "on a living human fetus, before or after the induced abortion of such fetus, unless such research is done for the purposes of assuring the survival of such fetus." The act also set up a national commission charged with recommending the circumstances, if any, under which the moratorium should be lifted.
In 1975, the National Commission issued its report Research on the Fetus,20 in which it outlined proposed limitations on research with dead fetuses and fetal tissue. These proposals, eventually adopted and codified2l by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, followed the National Commission's unanimous proposal that "use of the dead fetus, fetal tissue, and fetal material for research purposes be permitted, consistent with local law, the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act and commonly held convictions about respect for the dead."22
By the mid-1980s, promising research in Sweden and Mexico on the use of fetal tissue transplantation for the treatment of Parkinson's disease made this form of research far more visible than it had been. By the same time, anti-abortion forces had expanded the scope of their efforts to include a number of collateral issues, including the development of new abortifacients; use of alcohol and other drugs among pregnant women; regulation of in vitro fertilization; and mandatory contraception for female child abusers.23 In late 1987, consistent with its promise to reward the antiabortion movement for its help in two successive elections, President Reagan, through the auspices of his White House staffer Gary Bauer, made it clear that fetal tissue research would no longer be financed without some further review.
On March 22, 1988, the Reagan administration rejected a request from the National Institutes of Health for permission to transplant fetal tissue into the brain of a patient with severe Parkinson's disease, and imposed a moratorium on all research using tissue from aborted fetuses.24 The protocol, which had already been passed for scientific value by NIH, was held up while NIH director Jim Wyngaarden sought guidance from assistant secretary of health Robert Windom. The guidance he received consisted of a letter from Windom, directing Wyngaarden to convene an outside advisory panel to look at the ethics of fetal tissue transplantation, and listing specific questions to be answered. 25