In a sharply worded disagreementJudge Clarence Thomas on Thursday expressed support for a debunked claim that all Covid vaccines are made with cells from “aborted children.”
His dissent came to the fore in a Supreme Court decision to: not taking up a legal challenge by New York health professionals who opposed the state’s vaccine mandate on religious grounds.
Quoting the plaintiffs, Thomas wrote that health professionals objected “on religious grounds” to the state’s vaccine mandate “on religious grounds against all available COVID-19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.” .”
Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines early in the development of their Covid vaccine to test the efficacy of their formulas, as other vaccines have done in the past. The fetal tissue used in these processes came from elective abortions that took place decades ago. But the cells have been replicated many times since, so none of the original tissue is involved in making modern vaccines.
So it is not true that Covid vaccines are manufactured using fetal cell lines, nor do they contain degraded cells.
Instead, the vaccines contain messenger RNA — genetic material that instructs our cells to make proteins, which then train the immune system to fight off the coronavirus. They also contain fatty substances called lipids that help RNA pass through our cell membranes, as well as salt, sugar and a few substances that help stabilize the other ingredients.
In defending the vaccine mandate, New York attorneys also noted that lab-grown stem cells, which come from cells collected from a fetus nearly 50 years ago, were also used to test the rubella vaccine.
Thomas wrote for the three dissenters, himself and judges Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, but quoted the debunked claim nonetheless.
The majority of judges on Thursday declined to take up the legal challenge brought by health professionals who oppose the state’s vaccine mandate on religious grounds.
When the requirement was first imposed last August as a way to help prevent the spread of the latest Covid variant, it allowed exceptions based on medical reasons or religious concerns. But the religious exemption was later lifted. New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat and Roman Catholic, said she was not aware of any “sanctioned religious objection from any organized religion” and that religious leaders, including the Pope, encouraged people to indulge vaccinate.
Sixteen health professionals then filed a lawsuit, saying they had religious objections because fetal cell lines were involved in testing, developing or manufacturing Covid vaccines. They said the mandate violated their religious freedom because it allowed others who had not been vaccinated to continue working.
Thomas, along with Alito and Gorsuch, wrote on Thursday that the court should have heard the case. Thomas wrote that confusion remains about mandates such as New York’s that offer no religious exemption and that the court should have heard the case now to avoid similar confusion in the future.
State lawyers said the Covid mandate was similar to long-standing rules requiring health workers to be vaccinated against measles and rubella. These requirements also only allow exemptions for medical reasons. “The presence of a single, limited medical exemption from a vaccine requirement does not require the state to provide a general religious exemption from vaccination,” they said in their written comments.