Fetal tissue has been used in stem cell research in the United States since the early 20th century. It’s a practice that has seen its fair share of controversy, because fetal tissue is primarily obtained through elective abortion. This type of research was even banned from receiving federal funding for a period of several years during more than one conservative administration.
Stem cell research has been undeniably vital in helping scientists understand a wide variety of diseases, as well as the discovery of treatments for a number of them. The value of fetal tissue comes from its ability to be manipulated into many different types of cells. Unlike adult cells, fetal cells are still undifferentiated, meaning they have not yet taken a specialized course of growth (into blood or muscle cells, for example) and can be used more universally in different fields of research.