WASHINGTON (April 28, 1999) -- An official of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) urged Congress to reject Department of Health and Human Services' attempts to find a loophole in the current ban on federal funding for human embryo experiments so these embryos can be deliberately killed to provide "stem cells" for federally funded research.
Health and Human Services' interpretation of the ban "is morally and legally deficient and should be repudiated by Congress," said Gail Quinn, Executive Director of the NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, in an April 28 letter to all members of Congress.
The letter included a copy of testimony on destructive stem cell research on human embryos by Richard Doerflinger of the NCCB Secretariat. Mr. Doerflinger testified April 16 in Charlottesville, Va. before the National Bioethics Advisory Commission created by President Clinton in 1995.
Ms. Quinn observed that even current law allowing use of fetal tissue from abortions only allows researchers to use tissue from unborn children who have already been killed for unrelated reasons. "It has never allowed HHS to encourage destroying human life for research purposes," the NCCB official wrote. "Yet that is exactly what is entailed by new proposals for embryonic stem cell research. HHS has also largely ignored the promising alternatives which can advance progress in the repair and regeneration of human tissues without attacking human life."
Noting that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will soon release draft guidelines for research that requires the lethal harvesting of stem cells from human embryos, Miss Quinn noted that funding for such morally controversial research has never been authorized by Congress, and has never before been permitted by the NIH's own policies.
"It should not be allowed by default now," Ms.Quinn wrote. "Congress should make it clear in this year's Labor/HHS appropriations bill that such guidelines, which have not been reviewed or approved by Congress, may not be implemented."
Congress has long held that federal tax dollars should not be used for research in which human embryos are harmed or destroyed. This consensus has been reflected in bans on federal funding for human embryo experiments in each Labor/HHS appropriations bill since 1995.
More information, including past Senate testimony and materials on morally acceptable alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, are available on the Conference Web site. The internet address is http://www.nccbuscc.org/prolife/issues/bioethic.