Debi Vinnedge is the founder and Executive Director of Children of God for Life — a non-profit, pro-life foundation dedicated to educating the public on issues such as embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. Ms. Vinnedge\’s commitment to the protection of the unborn is unmatched. She provided testimony for the Congressional hearings on embryonic stem cell research, introduced the Fair Labeling and Informed Consent Act to the House and Senate and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows including the Vatican radio, Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes and EWTN. Perhaps Ms. Vinnedge\’s most important work has been the Campaign for Ethical Vaccines which affords individuals a way to petition pharmaceutical companies to offer morally licit medical treatments not derived from fetal tissues.
Catholic Stand is privileged to share Ms. Vinnedge\’s expert knowledge on an issue of great concern for Catholic parents and physicians — the lawfulness of the use of vaccinations derived from aborted fetal tissues.
Elizabeth Hoxie: Tell me about the origins of Children of God for Life. How did you become involved?
Debi Vinnedge: The year was 1999 and people were just beginning to hear a lot about embryonic stem cell research. Personally, I was shocked to think we had now come to the point where scientists could simply produce a human being and then deliberately kill him/her to collect the stem cells. When I tried to tell my fellow pro-life friends about this issue, I would get this \”deer in the headlights\” look. Our diocesan Respect Life Director knew nothing about it, nor did folks at the parish level. And yet the Clinton Administration was about to open this issue for a 90 day period of public comments on authorizing Federal Funding for the research. And so I began to do as much as possible in educating the public, including conducting seminars and running a full-page ad in our local newspapers, giving them the facts and encouraging people to write letters and make phone calls. It was during this time that I read an article in a Catholic publication about several childhood vaccines that were produced with aborted fetal material. As a mother, I was outraged that I had never been told this and as a prolife leader in my community, I also knew something had to be done. To me, if it was okay to use aborted fetal cell lines, then why not embryonic? There was no difference from a moral perspective. But as firm as I was in those convictions, I was just as sure that I was incapable of doing anything about it – and so I tried to ignore this growing tugging in my heart. I knew God was leading me into something that I was very frightened to take on: the pharmaceutical industry.
EH: Do you have any background in medicine? Are there medical professionals working with Children of God for Life?
DV: No – I had no medical training whatsoever and that was part of what was so frightening. When I finally caved in and gave my \”fiat\” to our Lord, I did so on the condition He would send me a lot of help! And He did just that. My first major contacts began with the US Conference of Bishops\’ Richard Doerflinger who put me in touch with the Catholic Medical Association. And they have been a staunch ally and major supporter of our work from the beginning.
EH: The statement on vaccines derived from aborted fetal stem cells (\”Moral Reflections of Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses\”) published by the Vatican\’s Pontifical Academy for Life is a very important resource for parents trying to navigate the moral quandries surrounding vaccinations. What was your role in the development of the document?
DV: In the early 2000\’s Catholics were being unjustly targeted by State health officials when they filed for lawful, State-authorized, religious exemptions. Any other Christian or non-Christian denomination was able to get their exemption with no trouble, but not Catholics. The reasoning was that the very article I had read when I first learned about these vaccines was being used by some State officials to deny Catholics the same rights as other faiths. The article had quoted a Catholic ethicist as saying there was nothing wrong with using these vaccines, nor was there anything wrong with the way they were developed. I went to the Vatican with the data I had collected to that point on behalf of Catholic parents who wished to abstain according to their deeply held prolife convictions. You see, when I first began our Campaign for Ethical Vaccines, I knew that there were far too many unanswered questions as to the history of this ghoulish practice. There were many morally produced vaccines and I saw no reason why aborted fetal material had been used at all. And so I began researching and digging into the past and what I uncovered was horrific. There were hundreds of abortions – not just one or two as I had been told initially – and this had been going on since at least as early as the 1930\’s. But unfortunately, much of this would surface after the PAFL\’s document was already released in 2005.
EH: Can you give a brief summary of the Pontifical Academy\’s findings and conclusions?
DV: The Academy stated that it was morally permissible to use the vaccines \”on a temporary basis\” if there was \”considerable danger\” to the child or the health of the community at large. They further stated that it was \”right to abstain\” if it could be done without \”significant risk\”. So in essence, they left this decision to the parents. However, they also made it very clear that there was a \”grave responsibility\” to use moral alternatives if they exist and that all Catholics must do all in one\’s power to pressure the government and the industry to provide ethically produced versions for which there is currently, no alternative.
(The Academy provides, as an example of the \”considerable danger\” some diseases pose to community health, the case of German measles or Rubella. German measles is a common, and typically benign, infection of infancy. However, Rubella poses a great threat to the unborn child of an unvaccinated woman exposed to the infection.)
EH: What advice would you give to parents who choose to seek religious exemption from vaccinations derived from aborted fetal stem cells when it comes to dealing with state and school officials?
DV: When we first contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we were advised to tell all Catholics who wished to abstain to use the Church teaching on moral conscience and that if they turned away from that conscience, it would be \”a grave error.\” Within 24 hours of that advice, we put the Church teaching from the Catechism and Papal encyclicals up on our website. That teaching is a solid tenet of our faith and it immediately ended the problem in nearly all public schools.
EH: How can Catholic parents discuss their concerns about the questionable vaccines with their physicians?
DV: Most physicians are very sympathetic to parents on this issue, however there are many who are completely unaware that vaccines contain aborted fetal material. We have developed many resources to provide ample proof for medical professionals and we encourage parents to give our free brochures to their doctors. We will also gladly take phone calls from the physicians if they have questions and we have developed a prolife physician\’s database of doctors who are willing to help parents. However not all physicians are willing to work with the parents. Some have literally kicked them out of their practice for refusing some of the vaccines or worse, they refuse to even order the moral options that do exist for some of the vaccines. This is unfortunate because if we are going to win this battle, we must have the full support of the medical community.
For more information on their work visit Children of God for Life\’s website at www.cogforlife.org
Photography: See our Photographers page.