Thursday, March 7, 2013

Anti vaccination group flies Irish politicians to US on anti abortion fact finding mission

I haven't spoken of the registered charity Family and Life before. They have an interesting past, the National Catholic Register describing them as splitting from US based Human Life International while reasoning that "its work in Ireland was being interfered with by Americans". This led to some surprise when I read in the Sunday Times of their plans to fly several Fine Gael senators, including Fidelma Healy Eames and Paul Bradford, on a 'search for truth' about abortion.

The shock was precipitated by their choice of location - they're off to the United States. For an organisation born from opposition to American intervention in Irish affairs this seems an odd choice.

With this thought in mind I reviewed a previous post touching on their most recent ancestor. Their split from Human Life International did not seem to include condemnation of their opposition to vaccines and I wondered if this was an area of disagreement.

It is not.

Take their Ethical Vaccine for Children Project:
The “Ethical Vaccine for Children Project” is aimed at applying pressure on the Irish health authorities and pharmaceutical companies to oppose the use of vaccines based on cell lines derived from aborted babies' tissue. In Ireland the MMR (Measeles, Mumps & Rubella) vaccine is produced using cell lines that originated in the abortion of unborn babies, despite the fact that ethical safe alternatives exist.
and continues with the comment:
I just read your leaflet on ethical vaccines.  It is very well produced, very informative and also very disturbing.  I can't believe that people would kill unborn babies in the search for a more profitable way of producing vaccines.  It's shocking and I will contact the drug companies to register my abhorrence at their actions.

The text of their leaflet is not provided, and if this is the reaction it inspires I can see a rather plausible reason why they would choose to keep it concealed.
Some background: viruses need to be grown in living cells. Sometimes animal cells are used. Sometimes they're unsuitable. In this scenario human foetal diploid cells are used. There are two strains available, both from a total of two abortions in the 1960's. There's a rather good overview here. A key quote:
Two different strains of human diploid cell cultures made from fetuses have been used extensively for vaccine production for decades. One was developed in the United States in 1961 (called WI-38) and the other in the United Kingdom in 1966 (called MRC-5).
WI-38 came from lung cells from a female fetus of 3-months gestation and MRC-5 was developed from lung cells from a 14-week-old male fetus. Both fetuses were intentionally aborted, but neither was aborted for the purpose of obtaining diploid cells.123. The fetal tissues that eventually became WI-38 and the MRC-5 cell cultures were removed from fetuses that were dead. The cellular biologists who made the cell cultures did not induce the abortions.
These two cell strains have been growing under laboratory conditions for more than 35 years. The cells are merely the biological system in which the viruses are grown. These cell strains do not and cannot form a complete organism and do not constitute a potential human being. The cells reproduce themselves, so there is no need to abort additional fetuses to sustain the culture supply. Viruses are collected from the diploid cell cultures and then processed further to produce the vaccine itself.
How well does this marry with the claim on Family and Life's website that "people would kill unborn babies in the search for a more profitable way of producing vaccines"?

And what of their alternative suggestion? They say they "are calling on the government to provide parents with an ethical alternative.", and that "[t]he current phase of our ethical vaccine campaign coincides with the news that an American pharmaceutical company, VM[sic] Biotechnology LLC, based in Seattle, Washington State, is to provide “morally acceptable vaccines to the US market”, that will in no manner be contaminated by foetal material from aborted babies."

On the face of it this is more reasonable than fellow 'pro life' group Human Life International's wild and wrong claims that vaccinations cause autism. There's precedent of sorts - few would object to Jehovah's Witnesses availing of an autologous transfusion when it is an equally safe alternative to receiving blood donation. And while pig heart valves are routinely used in cardiac surgery, bovine alternatives can be used in the rare instances of religious objection.

With that in mind I decided to examine VM Biotechnology. It seems they missed a letter. AVe Maria Biotechnology is a "faith based biotech company". There is information on its founding here. This rather good overview details their founder Dr Deisher's belief that vaccines cause autism and goes through their qualifications. Ave Maria Biotechnology has the significant problem of not having any vaccine products to market. Sound Choice, An organisation dedicated to spreading lies about links between vaccines and autism, is registered at the same address and Dr Deisher is listed as director. Family and Life oppose vaccines against Measles, Mumps and Rubella and suggest as an alternative that we wait for an underqualified vaccine scaremonger to come up with a product outside the current limits of science.

When I first discussed this matter on Twitter the reaction received was that the senators are welcome to fly with vaccine opponents, only their return to these shores is objectionable. This is perhaps unkind. It would run counter to the principles of democracy if I objected to anti abortion politicians holding a differing viewpoint from mine, and while I feel they should research thoroughly any group with whom they associate I recognise that we are all human and some may slip through the cracks. In an ideal world I'd like to hear that some are reconsidering their decision to fly with Family and Life. But failing that, I would quite like to see each participant issue a statement supporting the HSE's vaccination policy. I'd also be interested in hearing why Family and Life's opposition to vaccination doesn't affect its charitable tax status.


Lorraine Mac Rory said...

Doesn't this count as political donation? Another group laughing in the face of SIPO regulations.

Wendy Lyon said...

I'd also be interested in hearing why Family and Life's opposition to vaccination doesn't affect its charitable tax status.

Charitable groups are allowed to promote a political cause. There is a lot of misunderstanding about this. The catch is that it has to relate directly to their charitable purpose.

If F&L's opposition is to vaccination per se, then that is probably exceeding their particular charitable purpose. If it is to mandatory vaccinations, or to vaccinations of children that don't require parental consent, then I think they can probably bring that within their charitable purpose. Given that one of their stated objectives is to promote "the family", which they see as including protecting it from state interference.

Pakman1983 said...

As much as I am annoyed by those who criticise the use of vaccines because of their fears of autism links, at least with them, the possibility exists that they are well-intentioned but ill-informed. The political and financial weight behind the anti-vac movement is overshadowed only by the weight of their scientific ignorance and people can be emotionally manipulated easily when a movement has such a presence. This is especially true when dealing with their children.

Organisations like Family and Life, however don't fall into this category and they disgust and enrage me. Armed with the facts they spread misinformation and endanger the people they claim to defend. How they allow themselves to act in such a dishonest way and still consider themselves as holding the moral high-ground is beyond me. I hope this fact is as transparent to the Irish guests as it is to me.

Young Ireland said...

Hi Geoff,

I think that Family & Life's oppositions to the vaccines stems from the fact that they are made from the tissue of aborted babies.
If you read the piece more closely, they have no problem with vaccination per se.

You are correct that F&L broke away from HLI, however they split because the American HLI was interfering with their work. I don't think that would stop them from travelling to the US on business completely unrelated with HLI.

BTW, I agree that HLI's statements are often reckless and badly thought-out, but is it really necessary to use them to tarnish a group that has had nothing to do with it for over 15 years. You were telling the truth re YD Geoff, but I think that you are clutching at straws here..

Lorraine Mac Rory said...

I think saying "people would kill unborn babies in the search for a more profitable way of producing vaccines" is misleading, reckless and badly thought out. Much of our current medical knowledge comes from a time when modern ethics were not applied and research practices were less than ethical. Vaccines it seems are no different. But babies are not being killed to produce vaccines and no babies were killed to produce vaccines. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous and potentially dangerous to babies if no reasonable alternative is offered.

Allen Marco said...

There are more effects of abortion