Medical, Legal, and Ethical Implications of Vaccinations

We all want our children to be healthy, free of crippling or disfiguring diseases like polio, rubella, small pox, and even chicken pox. Well, yes, but…while these diseases can be horrific and result in permanent damage to the body, like deafness and blindness in the case of rubella, deformities and lameness in instances of polio, certain methods used to develop vaccines have been nothing short of barbaric. Think this is just hyperbole? Think again. Dr. Robert Lawler, MD, who recently opened a Catholic-based pro-life obstetrics and gynecology practice in Downers Grove, Illinois, with Dr. Anthony Caruso, MD, addressed a standing-room-only crowd at the January meeting of Catholic Professionals of Illinois. Speaking on the topic of vaccines and its connection with the issue of life, Dr. Lawler first recounted his conversation with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York when Dr. Lawler met with him in 2012. Cardinal Dolan advised Doctor Lawler to “engage boldly” in the world, competently and caringly, to combat the culture of death. Thus, Dr. Lawler pointed out that although vaccines are a tremendous success story, as they have spared millions around the world from the horrors of the most devastating diseases, their development has a seedy history that makes one’s hair stand on end and which needs to be exposed in order to promote awareness of and demand for moral alternatives.

With apologies to the biochemical engineers in the audience for grossly oversimplifying the process of vaccine development, Dr. Lawler reminded us that 50 years ago and earlier polio was a devastating disease that swept through the country as epidemics, mostly killing or paralyzing children but affecting adults as well, including President Franklin D . Roosevelt. In response to the panicked desire to find a vaccine against polio, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin each developed vaccines, one live, one dead, the latter considered safer to administer. Even though Jonas Salk was eventually hailed as a hero when his polio vaccine was officially declared safe and effective in 1955, the fact that the methodology used to procure the medium on which to grow the virus was downright barbaric gets very little attention, because the vaccine itself has had such protective health effects. Truth be told, the development of certain vaccines was originally tied to the eugenics movement and has vestiges of it even today.

It went something like this: since a vaccine requires that cells be first exposed to a virus in order for those cells to produce an antibody, vaccine researchers relied on fresh fetal cells to grow the virus. Key word here is “fresh.” Because researchers needed an intact fetus – – not a bag full of mixed tissue — to be able to specifically identify the organs that successfully produced antibodies for later use as inoculations, they needed, say, lung or kidney tissue from a fetus that had been surgically removed from the womb just moments before. Thus it is no exaggeration to say that the scientists engaged in harvesting organs from live human beings. Although abortion was illegal at the time, it was permissible in instances of “medical necessity,” which term included “feeble-mindedness” (mental illness), which, in turn, by definition pertained to women facing out-ofwedlock pregnancies. To appreciate this rationale for abortion, consider the Zeitgeist expressed by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who had earlier written in the 1927 Buck v. Bell decision: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” essentially sanctioning the forced sterilization of those with mental development issues. Finally, to complete the procedure, the woman was immediately sterilized after the abortion to prevent her from giving birth in the future to children who presumably would inherit the woman’s purported mental illness. The blatant barbarity at work here is partly reflected in the fact that in some cases, aborted fetuses were removed alive in a process called hysterotomy – a type of Ceasarian section – and then dissected. This description of procuring fresh fetal tissue by Dr. Gonzalo Herranz, Professor of Histology and General Embryology at the University of Navarra, Spain, speaks volumes: The correct way consists in having recourse to Caesarian section or to the removal of the uterus. Only in this way can bacteriological sterility be guaranteed. In either case, then, to obtain embryo cells for culture, a programmed abortion must be adopted, choosing the age of the embryo and dissecting it while still alive to remove tissues to be placed in culture media. That may have been a long time ago, but what many people may not realize is that a good number of vaccines currently used today have their origin in those very cells from 50 or so years ago. We know this because the cell lines are well documented. Referring to a handout from the Children of God for Life website ( that lists vaccinations derived from so-called aborted-cell lines as well as those from licit cell lines, Dr. Lawler noted that one of the most famous fetal cell lines was Winstar 38 (WI38), which was the cell line used to produce the German Measles vaccine. WI38 still exists today and is being used to produce vaccinations, but has a finite life. In planning ahead, the pharmaceutical companies have developed duplicate cell lines that are in storage, ready for use when WI38 expires.

Dr. Lawler also explained that there are moral alternatives for some of the vaccines, such as the vaccines being derived in Japan from rabbit cells. What is critical is that people have to ask for the alternatives, which may be more expensive for both patients and physicians. But, as was demonstrated with the Gardisil Human Papilloma Virus vaccine, which does not contain aborted fetal-cell lines, but which almost became mandatory without parental consent despite numerous reported adverse reactions, if enough people refuse to accept every vaccine available, Big Brother may back off. Nevertheless, it bears noting that some vaccine lines do not yet have a morally acceptable equivalent. Accordingly, while we have both a duty to find moral alternatives and a right to abstain from using these vaccines if doing so will not put others at risk, the Catholic Church stated in 2005 that it is licit to use them, if there is no alternative. Dr. Lawler emphasized the Church’s teaching that we also have a moral obligation not to expose others to a potentially catastrophic illness, such as German Measles, if we have the ability to do so. As Dr. Lawler pointed out, that’s where the clergy has a duty to speak up to clarify what our duty is to protect society against epidemics.

But the good news is that there are scientists working on ethical alternatives to the use of fetal lines, one of whom is adult stem cell scientist, Dr. Theresa Deisher, who has a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Physiology from Stanford University and is researching the possible link between vaccines and the increased incidence of autism. Interestingly, Dr. Deischer has documented a correlation between the increased incidence of autism whenever changes in vaccines were introduced. These “change points” were: the 1980 introduction of the Measles, Mumps Rubella 2 vaccine; full implementation of the compliance campaign in 1988; and the introduction of the Varivax vaccine in 1996. Despite a statement from the U.S. Center for Disease Control that there is no proven connection between vaccines and the increase in the cases of autism, it is curious that the government took this position when one considers the data associated with the three change points. The R2 value (a statistical measure used to predict outcomes) for the vaccines and autism is .98. Compare that number with the R2 value for global warming, a mere .44. Query: why do we accept global warming as real with an R2 value of only .44 but do not explore more fully the apparent correlation between vaccines and autism? This is an issue we need to pursue with our elected leaders, said Dr. Lawler. To give you an idea of the government’s attitude behind its position, consider the following excerpt from the Frequently Asked Questions part of the CDC’s pamphlet on Childhood Immunizations: it is a very common logical error to assume that because one event directly follows another, it must have been caused by it. We laugh at the old folk belief that the rooster’s crowing makes the sun come up, but the reasoning is exactly the same. The difference is that the idea of a rooster causing the sun to rise is ridiculous, while the idea that vaccines can cause autism sort of makes sense. But that doesn’t make the argument any more valid. For the theory that vaccines cause autism to make logical sense, someone would have to show that children who get vaccinated are more likely to develop autism than children who don’t. And no one has done that. And this: It would be nice to simply say that vaccines don’t cause autism, but it wouldn’t be good science. A basic principle of science is that you can’t prove that something is not true. We all believe that if you let go of an apple it will drop to the ground. But that belief is based on the observation that it has always happened that way in the past. It doesn’t prove that the next time you try it, the apple might not fly up into the air instead. So to say that vaccines don’t cause autism would be scientifically dishonest, regardless of how sure we are that they don’t. Notably, the federal government established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to compensate individuals injured by certain vaccines. Information about the vaccine fund is available at: http:// and

To conclude, Dr. Lawler responded to a question from the audience regarding people who say that those aborted fetuses were a long time ago, we should just ignore it. Dr. Lawler observed that there is a large industry of cosmetics, flavoring substances, and non-vaccine medications that routinely rely on aborted fetal cells to create their products. To illustrate, Dr. Lawler recounted the story of a dad and his kids. The kids wanted to see a movie that happened to have a little bit of pornography. The father agreed, but had the kids first make brownies with him. He told them they had to add just a little bit of dog feces to the mix. He then instructed them to bake the brownies and eat them. When he saw their disgusted reaction, he asked them what was wrong. “It’s just a ‘little bit’” he said. The lesson here is that even if these fetal lines appear only “a little bit” in cosmetics, flavoring substances, and vaccines, the practice won’t end and will likely increase. Dr. Lawler added that being authentically Catholic means working to find a moral alternative to vaccines produced with fetal cells and that becoming an informed consumer is a start in the right direction. Demand full-disclosure labeling to know what is in vaccines and other products and how they are produced.

For a list of various products derived from fetal cells, the brand names of which may shock you, go to: http:// Next time you hear that Nestle makes the very best chocolate, ask yourself how exactly. More information specifically on vaccines derived from human fetal cells is available at: http:// For information on Dr. Deisher and her work, please go to: