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Pa. House puts Pitt's funding on the line unless it stops its fetal tissue research

Gillian Mcgoldrick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in News & Features

HARRISBURG, Pa. — If the University of Pittsburgh wants its annual $151 million appropriation from the state, it will have to stop its fetal tissue research.

Pennsylvania House Republicans amended this requirement into the state's appropriation bill for its four state-related universities by a 108-92 vote. Three GOP members, including Rep. Lori Mizgorski, R-Shaler, joined Democrats in opposing the amendment.

The past few years, Pitt has come under fire from some of the state House's most conservative members for its fetal tissue research. The disapproval has only grown among House GOP members over the last year for the role former Chancellor Mark Nordenberg played as chairman of the state's reapportionment committee. The committee redrew district lines in Western Pennsylvania to represent its declining population, which caused some local Republican incumbents to be drawn into the same district or lose their party advantage.

Each year, Pennsylvania sends more than $580 million to its four state-related universities — Pitt, Temple, Penn State and Lincoln. This is used to subsidize in-state student tuition, allowing the schools to offer discounts to Pennsylvania residents.

Criticism for Pitt came to a head this year, with House Republicans officially drawing a line in the sand Monday to block the university from receiving its funding unless it ceases its fetal tissue research, just as the Supreme Court overturned abortion as a federal constitutional right under Roe v. Wade.

The amendment approved Monday makes this funding "conditional," and would require Pitt to submit a statement to several top state leaders that swore Pitt is not using fetal tissue from elected abortions in its research.


"My goal is not to stop the funding," said Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Schuylkill, who introduced the amendment. "As a matter of fact, I want to help Pitt get themselves out of a problem they have created for themselves."

Mr. Knowles said the Pennsylvania Family Institute, the Pro-Life Federation and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference all supported his amendment.

The Pennsylvania Family Institute has been one of the main groups advocating for the state to withhold funding from Pitt while it conducts fetal-tissue research. Last year after the Legislature approved Pitt's appropriation, the Family Institute said in a news release it was passed "sadly without any conditions or limitations on the university's unethical experimentation using aborted babies."

In an official statement, a university spokesman said Pitt "devotes every dollar" of its state appropriation to its in-state student tuition discount, and that they're hopeful the Legislature will "preserve this investment in our students."


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