Food does not contain aborted fetuses, but the total lack of existence of such a product hasn’t stopped one Texas Republican from trying to regulate it.
Ahead of the opening of the Texas state legislature last week, Republican state Sen. Bob Hall introduced a bill to mandate that food containing “human fetal tissue” be “clearly and conspicuously labeled.” If passed, this bill would also apply to food that is “manufactured using human fetal tissue,” or “derived from research using “derived from research using human fetal tissue.” Medical and cosmetic products that have links to fetal tissue would also be subject to these requirements.
Fetal tissue, according to the bill, is “tissue, cells, or organs obtained from an aborted unborn child.”
To be clear, food with fetal tissue in it? Not a thing. It doesn’t exist.
“There are no conditions under which the FDA would consider human fetal tissue to be safe or legal for human or animal consumption,” an FDA spokesperson told VICE News in a statement. Eating food with fetal tissue would also likely constitute cannibalism, which is typically frowned upon.
Cannibalism has found its way into the news quite a bit lately. Prominent conspiracy theory movements like QAnon hold (falsely) that elite Democrats are running a cannibalistic, Satan-worshiping, child sex-trafficking ring. QAnon’s beliefs are linked to antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ tropes that hold that Jewish and LGBTQ people are trying to hurt children, and even drink their blood. These conspiracies, which have flourished partly through lockdown isolationism and election denialism, have radicalized a stunning number of Americans and torn families apart.
Although food would not be impacted if Hall’s bill became law, medicine and science could be, since fetal cell lines can be used to develop and test drugs. These lines can be collected from a single miscarriage or abortion, then replicated in labs, over and over again, for decades. (Cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue can be preferable, both because it’s easier to collect and because fetal tissue derived from a miscarriage may carry whatever genetic or chromosomal problem may have caused the miscarriage in the first place.) Fetal cell lines have led to development of many major vaccines, such as the vaccines against chickenpox and Hepatitis A.
After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, a split erupted in the anti-abortion community over the morality of taking covid vaccines that may have been developed or tested using fetal cell lines. The Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines do not include any fetal cells, although fetal cell lines were sometimes used in the development stages.
Hall’s office did not immediately return a VICE News list of questions about the bill. However, his office told HuffPost in a statement, “Unfortunately, many Texans are unknowingly consuming products that either contain human fetal parts or were developed using human fetal parts.”
“While some may not be bothered by this, there are many Texans with religious or moral beliefs that would oppose consumption or use of these products,” the statement continued.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has previously said that, although vaccines with links to fetal cell lines can cause “a problem of conscience for some Catholic parents,” they can take them in service of the greater good of public health. In 2020, the conference urged people to get vaccinated against covid.
“A well-informed consumer can make whatever choice they decide on purchasing a product so long as they have all of the information in hand to make the choice,” Hall told HuffPost.
So far, Hall’s bill has not been assigned to a committee.
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