HARRISBURG, Pa. — An amendment added to the state budget bill by House Republicans would hold up to $597 million in funding for state-related universities unless they pledge not to conduct research involving fetal tissue from elective abortions.
The four colleges for which the funds are destined, Penn State, Lincoln, Temple and Pitt, are private colleges that receive state subsidies.
The measure is targeted specifically at the University of Pittsburgh for its fetal tissue research. The current budget appropriates $151.5 million to the university for general support funding, which the university uses to offset in-state student tuition.
SB 1283 would require universities to submit a sworn statement that their school does not conduct fetal tissue research in order to receive their state subsidies.
“I want these four universities to get their money, but I don’t want these atrocious, unethical experiments being done,” said State Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Schuylkill/Berks/Carbon), the sponsor of the bill in the House.
The House voted on Monday 108-92 for the amendment, an unusual move for what is usually a standard budget appropriation for state-related schools.
House Democrats oppose the measure and held a press conference on Tuesday warning of the consequences of not funding universities.
“Without this state funding working class students and their families will be denied access to the higher education, robust wages and greater opportunities they have worked toward for decades,” said State Rep. Austin Davis (D-Allegheny).
Democrats cited the medical progress made using fetal tissue, such as developing the polio vaccine and cancer treatments, as well as studying other diseases.
The tissue used in the research comes from aborted fetuses.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s historical reversal of federal abortion rights, some Democrats accused Republicans of using the ruling to push forward more abortion-related restrictions.
“This was going to happen, but I think the decision of the Supreme Court on Roe certainly added fuel to the fire,” said State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny).
Republicans denied that charge.
“It has nothing to do with that. That’s an issue that we can deal with down the road,” State Rep. Knowles said.
The University of Pittsburgh released a statement on the measure:
“The University of Pittsburgh devotes every dollar of the general support appropriation it receives from the state to help support a tuition discount for Pennsylvania students and families. We’re optimistic the legislature will preserve this investment in our students.”
The funding measure is part of a wider package of budget legislation that’s due to be passed June 30.