COVID-19 Vaccines & Abortion: What You Need to Know

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Note: This post was updated March 2 to reflect the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ statement on the Johnson/Johnson vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccines are out. And there is plenty of discussion regarding their connection to abortion. We understand there are strong opinions on the matter across the board, so we are writing this to make sure you have the facts.

The discussion centers around whether the vaccines used abortion-derived cell lines in either their production or their testing.

Tragically, for years, biological research has used cell lines derived from the fetal tissue of a few aborted babies in the 1960s and 70s to produce and test drugs and vaccines. The cells that were harvested from the aborted babies are replicated indefinitely, and research utilizing these cell lines does not require any further abortions to be performed.

Thanks to the Trump Administration, in June 2019 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it would no longer provide funding for research that requires a new abortion to harvest the cells. However, funding of research using the old abortion-derived cell line was allowed to continue. And because of that, we still face the issue of vaccines that have utilized the abortion-derived cell lines. Moving forward, the pro-life movement will have to fight to keep a Biden Administration from rescinding this order and allowing funding of research using newly aborted babies.

But this is not a new issue. For years, the same questions have faced us with other vaccines. For example, the MMR + Chickenpox vaccine utilizes the abortion-derived cell lines in its production. There is still no alternative that does not use the cells, even though the pro-life movement has called for an option for years. Click to see this full chart of vaccines and their alternatives. We encourage you to ask doctors to use the ethical alternatives.

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines, here is how they stack up:

  • Both the Pfizer (currently in use) and the Moderna (approved today) vaccines were not produced with the aborted fetal cell lines. However, they did use the abortion-derived cell line in a later testing phase.
  • Others, including the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson developers, used the abortion-derived cell line in both production of those vaccines themselves and in testing phases.
  • See this full chart from our friends at the Charlotte-Lozier Institute.

A number of faith and ethical groups have issued opinions on the moral perspective on taking these vaccines.

For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has always held that the patient’s connection to the creation of the vaccine is almost non-existent, and as long as there is not a more ethical alternative available that does not use the abortion-derived cell lines, it is morally permissible to take the vaccines of these nature. In the situation of the COVID vaccines, this same logic applies.

The USCCB does point out that the vaccines that were produced with abortion-derived fetal cell lines, such as those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are “more morally compromised” than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines due to the reasons discussed above. In fact, the Archdiocese of New Orleans issued a statement on February 26 2021 regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  The archdiocese states, “It is under the same guidance that the archdiocese must instruct Catholics that the latest vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson is morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing.” The Diocese of Baton Rouge also issued a statement on March 1, 2021. It is important to note that the USCCB does point out that the moral responsibility of the company that chooses to use the abortion-derived cells is different from that of the patient.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission holds a similar perspective, which can be found here. There are certainly other voices out there expressing contrary views, highlighting the difficulty of this situation.

Vaccines are important and have noble goals in eradicating diseases and illnesses such as COVID-19. But human life should never be sacrificed in that pursuit.

For our part, we will continue to advocate for ethical research and against the use of biological materials derived from aborted children, whether in the past, present, or future.

We hope this information is helpful to you and your family moving forward.

Resources for Catholics on Vaccine Exemptions from the National Catholic Bioethics Center:

Resources for General Public on Vaccine Exemptions from Alliance Defending Freedom

Have other vaccine exemption resources we should review?  Email to us at