Vaccine Questions

Vaccines From Abortion – Understanding the Facts

Since the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAFL) issued their dissertation in June 2005, Moral Reflections On Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Foetuses, there have been a number of questions raised on the vaccine-abortion connection, the intention of the PAFL document and Children of God for Life’s position.  The following Question and Answer analysis has been prepared to hopefully clear up any misunderstandings while providing both guidance and the facts on a very complex issue.

List of Questions

Q:  Do vaccines actually contain aborted fetal tissue?

Q:  Is it true that there was only one abortion done to produce the vaccines?

Q:  Is it necessary to use aborted fetal material?

Q:  Why are aborted fetal cell lines used at all?

Q:  Isn’t this type of research prohibited by President Bush in his 2001 stem cell decision?

Q.  Isn’t using aborted fetal tissue morally the same as organ donation of a child who has died?

Q.  But the abortions weren’t done with the intention of creating vaccines, were they?

Q.  What did Vatican officials say about the vaccine production in their statement?

Q.  What did the PAFL say about using vaccines with no ethical alternatives?

Q.  If there are ethical alternatives, must these be used instead?

Q.  Did the document reject a parent’s right to abstain in accord with their conscience?

Q.  What is Children of God for Life’s position on the vaccine issue?


Q: Do vaccines actually contain aborted fetal tissue?

A: No.  The vaccines in question are produced by cultivating the live virus on aborted fetal cell lines.  The cell lines themselves were originally developed using fetal tissue taken from aborted babies. In two of the cell lines, MRC-5 and WI-38, lung tissue from an aborted male at 14 weeks gestation and a female at 3 months gestation, respectively, were used.(1)  In a third cell line, HEK-293, kidney tissue was used and in the latest cell line under development, PER C6, retinal tissue was used from an 18-week gestation baby. (2) Once the cell lines are produced they will continuously self replicate in the lab for a number of years, though they do have a limited life-span, just as all normal human cells, tissues and organs do.  According to the manufacturer’s package inserts, the vaccines do, however, contain proteins and the full complement of human DNA from the aborted babies, albeit in small amounts. (3)


Q:  Is it true that there was only one abortion done to produce the vaccines?

A:  Not exactly.  While it is true that the each of the cell lines used in final production came from only one aborted child as described above, there were numerous abortions and fetal tissue samples used before the final cell line was perfected.  For example, in the case of the rubella vaccine there were at least 62 recorded, elective abortions involved in the research before the final version was developed. (4).


Q:  Is it necessary to use aborted fetal material?

A:  No. In fact it is not necessary to use human material at all.  Most vaccines are produced using morally acceptable cell substrates such as chick embryo or Vero (monkey kidney) cell lines.  Newer technology also uses synthetic materials or yeast, such as Hepatitis-B. Some companies are using caterpillar or salmonella bacteria to develop new flu and avian flu vaccines, though aborted fetal cell lines are also being used by other manufacturers to develop these new vaccines as well. For a complete list of all US products using aborted fetal cell lines and their alternatives go to


Q:  Why are aborted fetal cell lines used at all?

A:  While some vaccine manufacturers try to claim human material is necessary for culturing certain viruses, nothing could be further from the truth, as evidenced by the existence of ethical versions of the same vaccines.  Viruses do grow well on human cell lines, and they grow just as well on other culture mediums. Some manufacturers also claim it is better to use human cell lines to avoid contaminants from animals, while still others argue the reverse, claiming there is an equal concern over the presence of human DNA. Whatever source is used, the cell lines are regulated by the FDA to ensure there is no cross contamination. But in any case, if a human cell line is desired, non-objectionable human sources could be used instead.  For example, in developing the rubella vaccine, scientist Stanley Plotkin had the choice of using a cell line taken from a miscarried child or an aborted child, both of which he concluded were equally viable. He chose the aborted fetal cell line instead.(5)


Q:  Isn’t this type of research prohibited by President Bush in his 2001 stem-cell decision?

A:  No – and this is a common misconception.  The cell lines used in vaccine production are not embryonic, nor are they stem cells.  Stem cells are the precursor cells that form every organ, tissue and cell type in the human body.  Embryonic stem cells are extracted at approximately 5-7 days of a tiny human being’s development, which destroys the embryo.  Federal funding for this type of research was prohibited by President Bush.  These embryonic stem cells are “undifferentiated”, meaning they have not yet developed into a specific tissue or organ yet.  As the embryo continues to grow, specified cells, tissues and organs rapidly become present.  Any of these cells, tissues or organs taken beyond eight weeks would be considered fetal, not embryonic. Federal funding for aborted fetal research was approved in 1993 under President Clinton, largely due to intense lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry.  We can see history repeating itself, as the industry today pushes for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.  But just as there are moral alternatives for embryonic stem cells in adult stem cell research, there are also moral alternatives readily available to aborted fetal research. For further information on embryonic stem cell research see


Q. Isn’t using aborted fetal tissue morally the same as organ donation of a child who has died?

A: Not at all – for several reasons: First and foremost, when a child dies naturally or accidentally and the parents wish to donate the body for research, it is certain the parents did not deliberately bring about the death of that child.  In addition, while it is forbidden by law in the US, abortionists who provide fetal material to researchers have been known to alter both the method and timing of the abortion in order to obtain specific intact fetal material or organs at the proper age of gestation. This is especially true in the case of the abortions involved in vaccine production, some of which were done in Sweden, some were done in the UK and some were done in the US. In Sweden, many times, prostaglandin abortions were done in order to deliver a fully intact, and quite often, a very much alive, fetus.(6) We know that today, whenever an aborted child is used in research, the mother must give her consent in advance (7) but at the time the abortions involved in the vaccines were done, such laws were not in place.  In any case preparations must be made in advance to immediately preserve the tissues and organs, which is the only part that is similar to organ donation. Finally, basic moral ethics acknowledge that one must never do evil so that good may come from it. It would be morally wrong to intentionally kill anyone in order to retrieve their organs and tissues for research.


Q.  But the abortions weren’t done with the intention of research or creating vaccines, were they?

A:  The recorded mothers’ reasons for the abortions would seem to indicate this might be true at first glance, providing of course that we accept the abortionists’ word for it.  However, it does not really matter whether or not it was the mother’s intention to use her aborted child for vaccine development because it was most certainly the abortionist’s and the researcher’s intention. The facts surrounding the history of the abortions and the direct participation by vaccine developers are well documented and numerous. (See  From a moral perspective of direct material cooperation, which is always illicit, all three parties shared in the act of abortion: the mother, the abortionist and the researcher who was present and immediately performed the dissections.  Therefore, all three are equally guilty of participating in an immoral act, though the mother may actually be less culpable than the other two parties, especially if she was coerced into having an abortion for the “good” that might come by donating the fetus for research.


Q.  What did Vatican officials say about the vaccine production in their statement?

A.  The Pontifical Academy for Life did a thorough analysis of the varying levels of cooperation with evil, noting three categories of people: those who prepare the vaccines, those who market them and those who use them. Without question the greatest burden of guilt is placed on the pharmaceutical researchers who they noted “participates, in actuality, in the same moral evil as the person who has performed that abortion.”  The manufacturing, marketing and distribution of these vaccines by the pharmaceutical industry are also considered morally illicit.  However, this should not be confused with the use of the problematic vaccines by families who wish to protect their loved ones from disease. The PAFL noted that those who “use the vaccines in spite of knowing their origin (voluntary abortion), carry out a form of very remote mediate material cooperation, and thus very mild, in the performance of the original act of abortion, and a mediate material cooperation, with regard to the marketing of cells coming from abortions, and immediate, with regard to the marketing of vaccines produced with such cells.” (8)


Q.  What did the PAFL say about using vaccines with no ethical alternatives?

A.  In essence, the PAFL gave families permission to use or abstain from these vaccines under the proper conditions. This area is specifically noted as follows in their statement:

“As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health. However, if the latter are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis. The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favouring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children. This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles.”

We shall now carefully and thoroughly examine what this means, referencing a document reviewed and revised by Most Reverend Robert F. Vasa, Bishop of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon and Spiritual Advisor to the Catholic Medical Association, on this very point:

“First and foremost it states that it is “right to abstain”: not that it is “a right”, but that it is right – meaning it is a proper action. Next they lay out the conditions when it would be proper to do so – if it can be done without significant risk to the health of the child or the population.  This is an important caveat because in the US, religious exemptions to vaccinations have been used for decades without any notable increases in the incidence of outbreaks.  Rubella, which is the primary focus of the document, has been eliminated in the US as of 2005 according to the Centers for Disease Control. So in reality, the condition of “significant risk” is not a present factor among US citizens, though it could be in other parts of the world, which is why the Vatican takes great care in addressing it.

The report then goes on to state that if there is “considerable danger”, the vaccines may be used on a “temporary basis”. As noted, there is presently no considerable danger in the US, so we now move to the proviso of using them on a “temporary basis”.  This does not mean that if one chooses to use the aborted fetal vaccines that they can do so forever with a nonchalant, cavalier posture.  As strongly noted elsewhere in the document, there is a responsibility to bring about effective moral changes to this situation and that burden does not lie only with the pharmaceutical companies, but with consumers, medical professionals and health officials as well.

The very next sentence states that it is not “obligatory” to avoid passive material cooperation “if there is a grave inconvenience”.  They are not saying it is not permissible to abstain from using the tainted vaccines – they said it is not obligatory to abstain.  If a person wants to avoid this type of cooperation, the PAFL does not deny them that right. They simply say it is not required if there is grave inconvenience.  In other words, lacking grave inconvenience even passive material cooperation should be avoided if possible. (PAFL Pg. 5, par. 2) 

And finally as we examine the final citation regarding a “proportional reason” to use the vaccines – it reads: “we find in such cases a proportionate reason….” The words “such cases” refers to the sentences immediately preceding it: when there is a grave inconvenience or considerable danger to their health or the health of the population.  We would also note that the final sentence refers strongly to German measles (rubella), which as duly noted, poses no considerable danger to the population of the United States at the present time.” (9)


Q.  If there are ethical alternatives, must these be used instead?

A.  Yes.  The PAFL is very clear on this in two separate areas where they state that, “doctors and fathers of families have a duty to take recourse to alternative vaccines (if they exist)” (pg 6) and, “there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines” (Summary page 7)


Q.  Did the document reject a parent’s right to abstain in accord with their conscience?

A.  While the PAFL was clear in the duty to protect society from infectious disease, no such statement denying the right of conscience appears anywhere in the document. Quoting again from the analysis by Bishop Vasa:

“The PAFL references conscience in 5 different sections of the document:
“They should take recourse, if necessary, to the use of conscientious objection 14 with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human foetal origin. (Page 7)

‘Such a duty may lead, as a consequence, to taking recourse to “objection of conscience” when the action recognized as illicit is an act permitted or even encouraged by the laws of the country and poses a threat to human life. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae underlined this “obligation to oppose” the laws which permit abortion or euthanasia ‘by conscientious objection’ (no.73).” (Footnote 14)

‘It is up to the faithful and citizens of upright conscience (fathers of families, doctors, etc.) to oppose, even by making an objection of conscience, the ever more widespread attacks against life and the “culture of death” which underlies them.’ (Page 7)

[T]here is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems;’(Summary Page 7)

‘Such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.’ (Summary page 8)

Nowhere in the document do they state it would be wrong to follow one’s conscience. In fact in the third reference above they use the word “upright” to describe the conscience of one who takes a stand against the culture of death. Further, they acknowledge as unjust the present coercion of conscience that exists for parents who rightfully wish to vaccinate their children but do not want to use vaccines associated with abortion.  We would contend that their conscientious desire to avoid even remote material cooperation with an evil as immense and horrendous as abortion, provided they also meet the criteria as defined in the document for their particular environment and health conditions, would qualify as being consistent with a properly formed conscience, especially since it does not conflict with either the PAFL statement or Magisterial teaching.” (9A)


Q.  What is Children of God for Life’s position on the vaccine issue?

A.  Children of God for Life’s sole mission has always been to stop the use of aborted fetal cell lines in medical products, to discourage further vaccine development using immoral means and to obtain ethical alternatives for those vaccines offering no other choice for families.  We have never encouraged the public to either use or abstain from problematic vaccines one way or the other, as we believe this is a very personal decision that must be made by the individual after careful consideration and prayer.

Further, for the past five years and well before the PAFL document was received, we had already undertaken every admonition that were given to the faithful in the instructions of their analyses:

“Therefore, doctors and fathers of families have a duty to take recourse to alternative vaccines (if they exist), putting pressure on the political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without moral problems become available. They should take recourse, if necessary, to the use of conscientious objection with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human foetal origin. Equally, they should oppose by all means  (in writing, through the various associations, mass media, etc.) the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human foetus, and requesting rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers.” (pg 6-7)

  • We initiated the Campaign for Ethical Vaccines that currently has over 550,000 supporters nationwide
  • We have helped parents and families obtain ethical alternatives through our pro-life physician network in the US
  • We are working with the Japanese to obtain licensing for their ethical vaccines in the US
  • We have helped families in several foreign countries to obtain ethical alternatives from Japan
  • We successfully pressured the government to develop an ethical smallpox vaccine after the September 11th attacks in 2001
  • We have jointly purchased stock in Merck with HLI to forge a shareholder resolution informing the public and stockholders of their unethical practices
  • We have written numerous letters to all pharmaceutical companies – both good and bad to condemn or condone their manufacturing practices as appropriate
  • We have conducted nationwide seminars, appeared on local and national television and radio programs, issued massive press releases, paid advertisements and hundreds of thousands of our free vaccine brochures world-wide in order to educate the public
  • We are working with and promoting US pharmaceutical companies that are willing to develop new ethical alternatives
  • We have filed a formal appeal with the FDA for personal import of the ethical Japanese rubella under federal regulations for hundreds of families
  • Our supporters are demanding legislation  that would require accurate labeling and informed consent so that ethical alternatives may be selected, thus opening the market for companies willing to provide them.

In short, we have faithfully fulfilled exactly what our Church is asking all of us to do.  In fact, it was Children of God for Life who requested the assistance of Vatican officials and it was Children of God for Life to whom dear Bishop Sgreccia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, so graciously responded, after careful consideration of the work we were doing and the challenges we had encountered. We consider their document to be a profound blessing of our work and we are deeply humbled and grateful for their assistance.  For more information on how and why the document was initiated, go to

There are some who have misunderstood what our mission has been, some have dismissed this work as unnecessary or unimportant, while still others have accused us of misinterpreting the PAFL document and have falsely reported it as such in the media.  It was the latter that prompted Msgr. Jacques Suaudeau at the Pontifical Academy for the Family to rise to both his and our defense as he noted shortly after the release of the statement that,

“The document, as such, supports the position of Children of God [for Life]. It denounces the use of “tainted” vaccines, it asks for alternative vaccines; it invites (the document speak about a “duty”, which is a pretty strong word) parents (and others) to put pressure on government and companies to offer alternative vaccines.” 

(Msgr. Suaudeau is also a medical doctor in Rome who consulted on the writing of the official statement.)

To read the PAFL statement:

To read Msgr. Suaudeau’s statement:

To read Bishop Vasa’s analysis on moral conscience and the PAFL:

For more information on the PAFL statement and related articles:


Get Involved! – Join our Campaign for Ethical Vaccines!


1.  L. Hayflick and P.S.Moorhead, The Serial Cultivation of Human Diploid Cell Strains, Experimental Cell Research, 1961, 25, pg 591, 618; and Jacobs, Nature 277:168 (1970), Characteristics of a human diploid cell designated MRC-5. Return To FAQ

2   See   Return To FAQ

3.  See  and   Return To FAQ
4.  American Journal Diseases of Children; Virus Production and Biological Control of Live Attenuated Rubella Virus Vaccines, Vol. 118 Aug 1969;  and Attenuation Of RA273 Rubella Virus; Studies of Immunization With Living Rubella Virus; Arch J Dis Child vol 110 Oct 1965; and Hoskins, JM, Plotkin, SA., Behavior of rubella virus in human diploid cell strains. I. Growth of Virus. Arch Gesamte Virusforsch. 1967; 21 (3):283-295 and Behavior of rubella virus in human diploid cell strains. II, Studies of Infected Cells.1967; 21 (3): 296-308  Return To FAQ

5.  Hoskins J.M., Plotkin S.A., Behavior of Rubella Virus in Human Diploid Strains, Wistar Institute Philadelphia, PA. Jan 16, 1967  Return To FAQ

6. ; Conference on Love, Life and the Family, Dr Bernard Nathanson, Irvine, CA, April 6-10-1994  Return To FAQ


8.  See   Return To FAQ

9.  See   Return To FAQ

9A  See   Return To FAQ