You Can Be the Pro-Life Parent of a Fully Vaccinated Child


Most parents vaccinate their children, and most do so because they trust their doctors and because it seems like a reasonable course of action. After all, no one enjoys having a sick child, and very few parents want to see the return on polio and measles. Very few parents look into how vaccines are manufactured since their decision seems so obvious.

Reasonable and responsible Catholic parents can find concern when they learn that some vaccines have a connection to abortion. So much misinformation about this connection abounds, and they wonder–can a pro-life parent fully vaccinate her child?

Before we get into that answer (the answer is yes), let’s dispel some misinformation about the connection between abortions and vaccines.

Do vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue?

The simple answer is no.

The full answer is a bit more complex, and it has to do with how vaccines work. In order for a vaccine to work, it must contain an antigen–something that makes the immune system take notice and mount a defense. This antigen comes in the form of killed or weakened viruses or bacteria (or pieces of these). To prepare a virus (or bacterium) for a vaccine, it has to grow somewhere–a place where the antigen will be weakened so that it cannot reproduce in our bodies and make us sick. Cell lines are one such growth medium for these antigens. Think of a cell line as being similar to the soil where our potatoes and our carrots grow.

Two cell lines are currently in use in the United States. WI-38 was developed in 1961 and MRC-5 in 1965. Those cell lines are derived from two different aborted fetuses, neither of which was aborted for the purpose of making a vaccine. Because of the way the cell lines are manufactured, there is no need for new fetal tissue to make new cell lines.

Our vaccines do not contain this tissue because the viruses are removed from the cell lines before they are placed in the vaccine, much the same way our potatoes don’t contain dirt.

Which childhood vaccines are grown in these cell lines?

The rubella (german measles), Hepatits A, and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines were grown in these cell lines.

We vaccinate against these diseases for important reasons, and these reasons are aligned with pro-life teachings.

● Rubella can be a mild childhood illness, but it poses a serious threat to unborn babies. Before the vaccine, a global rubella pandemic struck between 1962 and 1965. According to the CDC, the pandemic hit the United States and its unborn children hard, resulting in 11,520 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 babies born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) — a syndrome that leaves a child with lifelong disability and illness. The WHO reports that 110, 000 babies are born with CRS each year.
● Hepatitis A is a serious virus that affects the liver and leaves people feeling very ill for approximately two months. about 20% of people who contract Hepatitis A are hospitalized. Because it is a liver disease, it can lead to lifelong complications and death.
● Chickenpox was once a common childhood illness. Before the vaccine, up to 13,000 people were hospitalized each year due to chickenpox, and 100-150 people died each year in the United States.

How do I weigh the life of an aborted child against my own child’s life when deciding how to vaccinate my children?

There’s no doubt that vaccines do a lot of good in the world, and they do so at very little risk to our children. But are they irrevocably tainted by the evil act of abortion? Is it fair for a parent to opt out of the vaccines grown in cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue?

In Matthew 13:24-29, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

The problem with choosing to opt out of the vaccines listed above is that doing so also opts out of the good they do. We risk miscarriage, birth defects, hospitalization, and deaths in our communities due to those diseases. And because vaccines are combined (the rubella vaccine is administered with the measles and mumps vaccines), we risk outbreaks of other diseases as well.

Measles outbreaks, in particular, have caused controversy when they have been tied to religion. This year, most of the 592 cases of measles cases in the U.S. were sparked by an under-vaccinated Amish community in Ohio. Vaccine fears preached in a Texas mega-church resulted in a measles outbreak in 2013. Most horrifyingly, two churches in Philadelphia who eschewed vaccination saw multiple children die in a 1990-1991 outbreak. That these outbreaks begin in faith communities — where social justice and protecting the weak should be paramount — is shameful. And it could bring scandal upon any Catholic parish where vaccine-refusing sentiment would be spread.

Deciding to vaccinate is not favoring a parent’s child against the two children lost to abortion. It is understanding that no further abortions need occur and that the evil act is done and irreversible. It is understanding that if we try to remove this evil, we undo all the potential good, too. And we’d all be morally culpable for that.

What does the Church say?

The question of the use of cell lines derived from aborted fetuses in the manufacture of vaccines has been brought before the Vatican. The National Catholic Bioethics Center has distilled the Vatican statement wonderfully, writing:

Parents may vaccinate their children because by doing so, they are not involved in any illicit form of cooperation with the original abortion. Many Catholic experts concur that cooperation today is not really possible in an event that was over and done with many years ago. Because the abortion occurred long ago, and for reasons completely unrelated to vaccines, it is untenable to conclude that vaccine recipients today somehow cooperate in the original abortive event. Moreover, there is no ongoing use of recently aborted material for vaccine preparation; the lines obtained 30 or 40 years ago are the only abortion-derived lines being used currently for vaccine production. In sum, then, by vaccinating their children, parents do not illicitly cooperate in evil, nor otherwise engage in wrongdoing. If pharmaceutical companies or other agencies derive fetal cell lines from elective abortions, those companies or agencies, not the parents, are guilty of immoral cooperation in the evil of abortion.

Can a pro-life parent fully vaccinate her child?


If you have more questions about vaccines, talk to your child’s medical doctor.

Karen Ernst is the mother of three fully vaccinated children, and the wife of a military officer. She has a passion for good books and children’s rights. She is also the mother-in-charge of Voices for Vaccines.

24 thoughts on “You Can Be the Pro-Life Parent of a Fully Vaccinated Child

  1. I’m not sure where the author got her information from, but she must not be aware of the in-depth investigative work done by Children of God for Life. Reported in “Aborted Fetal Cell Line Vaccines And The Catholic Family
    A Moral and Historical Perspective”. The “facts” stated here here are simply fluff.

    Get the REAL story, Catholic or not…

    It’s very long, but worth the read.


    • Also long, but worth the read IMHO:
      Unfortunately, you will find much outdated information and obfuscation on the CoG for Life website (and complete acceptance of every trite anti-vaccine canard in their facebook group where they show their true colors: The section where they scoff at disease risks is particularly cherry-picked and outdated and, basically, says that it completely worth it and acceptable to have children suffer preventable death rather than use vaccines whose use (for us, the consumers) is lawful.

      To me, it is very telling that they purposefully obfuscate the history of WI-38. They say Hayflick’s research was done “solely” for vaccine production, which is patently false. “Hayflick also began investigating whether some human cancers might be caused by viruses. To do so, he needed a resource that did not yet exist: verifiably normal human cells that could be reliably grown in the lab. Fetal cells, he thought, were an ideal candidate, because they were less likely to have been exposed to viruses than adult cells.” (source: Nature Because of this, I cannot (and I’m sure Karen who has spoken to directly to vaccine developers cannot either) place much faith in their narrative.

      Their language is so telling of their bias. A rubella epidemic provided “the excuse” and the developers “preyed” on the fear? Are you kidding me? As the Vatican noted AT LENGTH in their document to CoG for Life, which they’ve subsequently obfuscated, “in 1964 [rubella] thus caused 20,000 cases of congenital rubella, resulting in 11,250 abortions (spontaneous or surgical), 2,100 neonatal deaths, 11,600 cases of deafness, 3,580 cases of blindness, 1,800 cases of mental retardation…. The severity of congenital rubella and the handicaps which it causes justify systematic vaccination against such a sickness.” ( That isn’t an “excuse”; that’s terror to anyone who values innocent human life!!! Who, other than biased ideologues like CoG, would insinuate nefarious motives on people trying to save children from a fate like that? To save women from crying tears of joy for miscarrying ( Throughout the entire piece they presume dark, nefarious motives with only a few scraps of ideologically-motivated, tangential, indirect “proof.”

      The destruction of the life was completely independent of the research. The work of the researchers was not dependent on the unjust destruction of life; CoG’s own analysis makes that abundantly clear! (“it was not necessary to isolate the virus through abortion”, “Plotkin had the choice of using either a fetal cell line taken from a miscarriage or the aborted fetal cell line”.) This is why the Pontifical Academy for Life has affirmed the LAWFULLNESS of using WI-38/MRC-5 cultured vaccines. Unlike embryonic stem cell research/treatment, whose means can never be licit and always require the direct destruction of life, these means of making these vaccines is not ipso facto dependent on the unjust destruction of life. The Pontifical Academy for Life makes a much more thorough explanation of why they do not hold the moral quandary in the absolutes that CoG does, but here’s the relevant conclusion: “[The] duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favouring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children.”

      If you choose, instead, to follow ideologues who have proven time and time again that they have no respect for facts and science, that is your own affair. For myself, I shall stick with the Pontifical Academy for Life and the National Catholic Bioethics Center (“One must follow a certain conscience even if it errs, but there is a responsibility to inform one’s conscience properly. There would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious disease, for example, rubella, especially in light of the concern that we should all have for the health of our children, public health, and the common good.” (; “[The] burden of this important battle cannot and must not fall on innocent children and on the health situation of the population….”) and vaccinate.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Rikki,

      I have received my information from many credible sources, including the National Catholic Bioethics Center that Laura linked to and my local Archdiocese. For medical information, I receive my information from experts in the field of immunology, including Dr. Stanley Plotkin as well as my own pediatrician and people who work in public health and immunization research.

      It’s indeed a complicated issue, but I do not find CoG for Life to be a good source of information, be it theological, moral, or scientific for the reasons that Laura has cited.

      As just one example, the link you gave me claims that there is ongoing destruction of embryos in order to create vaccines, but this could not be further from the truth. According to the History of Vaccines project of the College of Physicians, cell lines can be considered “immortal” in that scientists can continue replicating them ad infinitum. For that reason, no further destruction of fetal tissues has occurred in making vaccines. (See:

      I think the pro-life movement, and all Catholic causes are best served when they do not misrepresent science in order to fool or frighten people into following them. The science simply does not support refusing immunization, and faith can support using all vaccines in order to keep our children, our communities, and our world healthier.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Regarding the supposed ‘immortality’ of the cell lines:

        I am sure you are familiar with the Hayflick Limit. Leonard Hayflick (researcher involved with the creation of the WI-38 line) admitted/concluded that a cell line created using a population of normal cells is not immortal, stating that there will come a point where the cells will not reproduce/provide a viable medium for growing the viruses. He made this discovery much to his dismay, of course.
        And, at that point, to what will the researchers/manufacturers turn? This is troubling in terms of the thought that use of the vaccines may encourage future abortions, especially since the manufacturers consider the use of human cell lines to already be ‘proven’ technology with respect to the creation of the involved vaccines.

        (I know the info at states that some cell lines have been immortalized, ones which have undergone some kind of mutation, and gives the example of the HeLa cell line (started from cervical cancer cells); however, it is known that the fetuses used to create the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines were considered healthy.)


      • Given the number of cells harvested, the fact that we can control replication and division by judicious freezing/thawing of the cell line – there is no worry that we will ‘run out’ of WI-38 cells


  2. Perhaps you can be a ” Pro-Life Parent of a Fully Vaccinated Child”, but if you’re researched at all, then you’re a HORRIFIED Pro-Life Parent of a Fully Vaccinated Child, questioning why you weren’t given all of the information before hand.

    And if morality isn’t enough, there are other reasons to question, too. Vaccines can, and DO, cause autism!

    #hearthiswell #CDCwhistleblower #CDCpantsonfire


    • It is absurd to think that CoG for Life is going to give you “all the information”. Please consider reading my reply regarding their outdated, obfuscated, and inaccurate information. I would consider, too, that it is possible that many behind CoG for Life are not so much interested in having their views conformed to the Church in pursuit of truth, so much as they are looking for validation of their own opinions so they can get vaccine exemptions. ( I don’t know their hearts, but I do know their biases because they are incredibly, incredibly obvious and NOT in line with organizations (the Pontifical Academy for Life, the National Catholic Bioethics Center) that I feel far more comfortable deferring to in the question of Catholic bioethics.

      The fact that you use the #CDCwhistleblower hashtag does not bode well for you in this forum. We are Rational Catholic Blog for a reason— we value science. Anyone who thinks that the disagreement that Dr. Thompson had with his colleagues about a SMALL subset (African-American males) in a SINGLE STUDY (out of many, many others that have failed to find a link) that MIGHT have been more disposed to autism following MMR based on avowed anti-vaccinationist Brian Hooker’s sad “reanalysis,” does not think so in the context of valuing science or truth. (see here for a better explanation:

      Vaccines do not cause autism as we have addressed, and will likely continue to address so long as the myth persists:

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have struggled mightily with this issue for quite some time. I have literally spent hundreds of hours researching, praying, pursuing alternatives and voicing objections/educating others, speaking to bioethicists (a priest in our diocese and one of the bioethicists at the National Catholic Center for Bioethics), reaching out to Priests for Life, etc., and to sum up, the Vatican (Pontifical Academy for Life) hits the nail on the head with this statement:

        Regarding the very remote mediate material cooperation in the original evil that befalls the users of the vaccines, the Vatican says:

        such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.

        My son is not yet 12 months old, and there are ethical alternatives to the problematic Pentacel which we have been able to pursue. But I can tell you that using tainted vaccines after he is a year old WILL force me to act against my own conscience, and tears at my very soul, which is terribly distressing. No parent should have to be forced to make such a choice – the Vatican’s language is spot-on in terms of the moral coercion involved.


      • I should add; think about it:
        Children were murdered and used for ‘parts’/manufacture…children who had the same (INFINITE) value as my son, as you, as me. And the Catechism is clear that it is NEVER licit for man to perform an evil in order to bring about a good. Intrinsic evil is ALWAYS evil, period. It makes no difference to me if those abortions occurred 50 years ago or yesterday – those lives had the same value either way. And I’m not even going to get into the (complicated) moral theology of using the by-product of an abortion, tempered with the consideration that innocent lives are at stake, but also that we are talking about temporal lives in that respect, as opposed to spiritual/eternal ones.
        Every pro-life person should be horrified by this situation. The whole issue sickens and saddens me, and must be so terribly offensive to God, our Father. I pray for the conversion of those who are involved in the manufacturing, production, and promotion of the tainted vaccines, and for the development of ethical alternatives.

        Also, Laura, I know you do not care for the CoG for Life site, but if you should want/care to read some opinions from various moral theologians (on both sides of the issue), you can find them linked here:

        These can perhaps help with understanding of the terrible moral dilemma with which some of us (continually, deeply, and prayerfully) wrestle where the use of the tainted vaccines are concerned.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, you misunderstand. I am not meaning to belittle the ethical dilemma that occurs when we are forced to cooperate with evil, something that regular people and theologians have wrestled with for centuries. But it is recognized that you are not really able to act in the world without any interaction with evil. You have a 401K? You’re cooperating in evil. Pay taxes? Cooperating in evil. The question of whether the cooperation is permissible or highly impermissible/sinful is a grey area based on the circumstances. I work under the premise of the Vatican statement and what we know about the threats of disease from medical science— this IS the extrema ratio to which the Vatican is referring. I can’t justify eschewing a vaccine if I have been told by the authority of the Church that it is lawful until there’s something morally upright and I could be the proximate cause of a child’s suffering and death if I do.

        I do not look to CoG for Life because they, especially when speaking online in social media, consistently promote anti-vaccine information even about licitly produced vaccines, obfuscate the true risk of the diseases, feel no responsibility toward their fellow men (they just pass the blame to Big Pharma the way some pass the blame to government or the Church to justify their indifference), and use the “threat” of autism to fear-monger about vaccines. I find that last part repugnant from people who claim to be pro-life, as if an autistic life is hell, a burden, without value, and not one worth living. (I can put you in touch with many mothers of autistic children who despise CoG for Life and the anti-vaccine organizations like them for that very reason.) I can’t take their theological arguments seriously when it seems like they will use anything to justify not vaccinating. And the fact that they can’t seem to separate the philosophical implications of cooperation in evil from utilitarianism doesn’t sit well with me when it seems so wholly contrary to the Vatican statement.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Erika, I’ve known many wonderful people with autism as well as their loving, joyful families. Autistic people don’t deserve to be held up as a reason for not vaccinating and potentially subjecting your children and community to outbreaks of preventable diseases. Also, as Laura pointed out, the science doesn’t support a vaccine-autism connection. Not even a little.

    Erika and Rikki, my children are fully vaccinated and I’m pro-life. What horrifies me most is the idea that people are willing to risk the lives and health of their children and other people’s children, including unborn babies, and they actually consider that consistent with pro-life, Catholic morality.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Please include the combination shot Pentacel in the list of vaccines grown in the fetal cell lines. I am sure many people are reading your article, and they should be made aware, especially since Pentacel is so widely used.

    The IPV portion of Pentacel is manufactured using the MRC-5 fetal cell line. Please note this reference in the Pentacel package insert:
    Poliovirus Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 are each grown in separate cultures of MRC-5 cells, a line of normal human diploid cells, by the microcarrier method.

    Pentacel (indicated at 2, 4, 6, and 15 months of age) is the one ‘tainted’ vaccine for which there are ethical alternatives available.
    Per the Vatican, Catholic parents are obligated to request and use such alternatives; this is taken directly from the Pontifical Academy for Life’s statement:
    -there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems;

    Ethical alternatives to Pentacel are DTaP + IPOL (grown in a monkey kidney cell line) + Any Hib,
    Pediarix (also includes HepB) + Hib.

    Parents should also be sure to voice their objections to Pentacel’s manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur.

    (Note: Pentacel is not listed in the Vatican’s statement as it was licensed in the US in 2008, 3 years after the Vatican’s statement was published.)

    Thank you, and God bless.


      • Genevieve, I see the update in your article – thank you! I was requesting here that Karen update her article to include Pentacel (more detailed comment above), specifically this section:

        Which childhood vaccines are grown in these cell lines?
        The rubella (german measles), Hepatits A, and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines were grown in these cell lines.


  5. Good grief ! I am now a grandmother who is not only concerned about these vaccines for my grandchildren but for my daughter who must make
    such horrid decisions re whether to vaccinate or not. Fortunately she has
    used her God-given common sense and had all of them vaccinated. I don’t know if they were vaccinated from vaccines derived from these cell lines or from monkey kidneys. How would the average mom know this stuff is moral or illicit? Have you ever heard a sermon advising/informing parents?
    Get your kids vaccinated NOW…ASAP! My great-grandmother lost three children to the horrid disease of Diptheria at the turn of the last century. Do you think if a vaccine had been available she would have hesitated one nano seconc to have had her children immunized?
    I am sticking with the “wheat and tares” analogy. God does not expect moral behavior to be a such a conundrum and along with faith gave us the ability to reason. Children need to be protected against the ravages of a communicable disease. These lines used in producing the vaccines came
    decades ago from aborted fetuses, aborted for other reasons. It is done and over and is not recurring each time a vaccine is administered. Our reason tells us this. Our faith tells us that the souls of these aborted babies are in Heaven. Have your kids vaccinated, NOW!


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