The Washington Post interviewed Dr. Ben Carson about my post from yesterday that disclosed his use of fetal tissue in research.

Defending his work he told David Weigel,

“If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it.” 

But the tissue he used was from an abortion. That is what the Materials section says. It doesn’t say when but it says what. That abortion might have happened 10 years before and it is true the tissue could have been retrieved from a tissue bank and so not obtained for his specific study, but how exactly does Dr. Carson think it got into the tissue bank in the first place? His response makes no sense at all.

To those who wonder if it were a spontaneous abortion (what the public calls a miscarriage) I say highly unlikely. First of all, the Materials section should say “spontaneous abortion.” It doesn’t. Secondly, and mostcarson3
importantly, a spontaneous abortion is by definition abnormal. Whether it was a chromosome issue or an infection or some other cause for the pregnancy loss that reason is a variable and so if you want to study normal you need normal. There is no way around it.

Studying normal fetal tissue has allowed us to know what cells produce dopamine and serotonin and all the other neurotransmitters. Studying fetal tissue allowed us to understand how the spinal cord forms. necessary if you want to operate on babies with spina bifida. Without fetal tissue research Dr. Ben Carson could not have cared for patients in the way that he did. How is that under delivering?

Carson told The Washington Post, “You have to look at the intent.” The only way this makes any sense at all is if he believes women are specifically having abortions for the sole purpose of selling their fetal tissue, but as no one profits from the sale of fetal tissue one is just left to wonder what exactly he means. I hope reporters keep asking.

And as for Dr. Carson’s ad hominem attack of calling me “desperate.”  Dear Dr. Carson, I am desperate but not in the way that you think. I am desperate for the truth and desperate for male politicians who know nothing about reproductive health to think less about the uterus. I get nothing from writing these posts. I don’t work with any political party and I certainly don’t get paid.  I have no endorsements and no drug company affiliations. When I write about abortion I get trolled on my Twitter feed and on my blog. Writing about this is time-consuming because I read a lot of references and fact check and the hate is at times soul sucking. It is an easier day when my Twitter feed doesn’t blow up, you know? I get plenty of attention from my sex posts. I write about abortion and women’s rights solely because I believe in evidence based medicine, scientific research, and because the idea of a woman bleeding to death on the floor of her house from a home abortion breaks my heart.

I despise when doctors use their degrees to spout off in the media and then go unchallenged. The media are not doctors so they are not always in the position to call bullshit, but I am. Whether it’s Dr. Oz talking about busting belly fat with a green bean or Dr. Ben Carson talking about fetal tissue research having “under-delivered” it doesn’t matter. Wrong is wrong.

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  1. Thank you for your honesty and good sense – and your bravery in displaying it in a world that seems filled with radical fundamentalists.

  2. Great work Dr. Gunter! I do have a question though… Dr. Carson’s research appears to have been conducted in 1991. The ban on federal funding for fetal tissue research was lifted by Bill Clinton via executive order on January 23, 1993. This executive order overturned President Reagan’s ban of federal funding for research that involved fetal tissue. Was any of Dr. Carson’s research federally funded?

  3. I think Carson’s disingenuous reference to “intent” is aimed at PP, which in GOP RightSpeak is de facto defined as a mercenary and exploitative organization.

    Bit of projection, there, I think. And, of course, he always works for free, covers all his own costs, correct?

    What an arrogant dick.

  4. On those days when a–holes attack you on Twitter, know that you’ve become one of my heroes. I love your no BS posts. I love the truth and I respect you so much because you provide it. There’s nothing better than a doctor who tells it like it is!

  5. I like the way you wield the lasso of truth. Thanks for bringing this important issue to light.

  6. Thank you Dr. Gunter!!! As a scientist, I get really frustrated when I see other scientists use their credentials for political or monetary gain at the expense of evidence-based research/medicine. Glad to so that you are fighting the good fight.

    1. And you don’t think Dr. Gunter is getting any gain from these dubious attacks? He’s answered them fully. Just go to Dr. Ben Carson on Facebook and you will see how baseless Dr. Gunter’s accusations were. She should really dig deeper and ask more questions directly if she wants to maintain credibility.

  7. Great blog. Love your “why I do this” statement at the end. You’re great. And yes, even those of us who admire what Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick did to fund and publicize birth control, hate the tapes of Sanger using poverty control as an argument 90 years ago. But Sanger’s views are not relevant to the funding of Planned Parenthood’s provision of care and birth control in 2015, and not at all relevant to fetal tissue research. Thank you.

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