More than 60 Republicans and Democrats in Congress are supporting a bill—the Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act (HR 816)—that would improve disclosure by federal agencies about hundreds of expensive, slow, and outdated animal tests. Which is good news. Because if taxpayers and Congress knew how the government was spending their money, they’d be horrified.
According to government data analyzed by the taxpayer watchdog White Coat Waste Project, the National Toxicology Program (NTP)—a joint program of the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration—is engaged in hundreds of planned and ongoing animal tests for pesticides, industrial chemicals, foods, natural supplements and even cosmetics. But that’s only the start of the gruesome news.
Two of the substances on the NTP animal testing list are Black cohosh and Dong Quai. These herbs are marketed in part as treatments for menstrual cramps and erectile dysfunction. But they are best known as a way to induce “herbal abortions.”
One labor and delivery nurse I spoke with said that when the herbs are taken together it is similar to a “coat hanger abortion done in an alley.”
According to the Livestrong website, “Some women use a combination of black cohosh, blue cohosh and dong quai to induce a miscarriage or abortion. The amount of herbs needed to induce miscarriage varies and some women may experience a miscarriage immediately and some women may not miscarry at all. Inducing a miscarriage without a physician's supervision is dangerous and can result in an incomplete miscarriage, in which parts of the fetus can remain inside the uterus.” Another Livestrong webpage states, “The American Academy of Family Physicians explains that midwives have traditionally used the herbs to induce labor or to induce an abortion.”
The NTP is planning—but has not yet conducted—nine separate poisoning tests on animals for Dong Quai. One of the tests is for “developmental toxicity.” Which means force-feeding pregnant rats massive doses of the compound and then killing the animals, cutting out their fetuses and dissecting them. For Black Cohosh, twelve different animal toxicity tests have already been conducted and a thirteenth is in the works.
That fact that taxpayers are paying for tests designed to establish safe doses of abortion herbs is sickening. But even taken on their own terms, these tests are probably a waste of money. According to Science magazine, “Animal-based testing is expensive and time-consuming, morally and ethically troubling, and most significantly, often a poor predictor of human toxicity.” The article details that modern testing methods like in vitro tests (tests performed outside a living organism) can cost 30 times less than animal testing and take weeks, instead of months or years.
The FACT Act will be a first step toward eliminating this kind of waste because it will require NTP and other agencies to publicly report how many animals they use in toxicity testing, and for what purposes. “Science” shouldn’t mean running grotesque and cruel tests of backdoor abortifacients on animals.
Alyssa Hackbarth sits on the advisory board for White Coat Waste Project, a nonpartisan watchdog that works to stop taxpayer-funded experiments on animals.