WASHINGTON (June 27, 2001) -- Misleading questions in an ABC News poll on stem cell research resulted in biased results, according to an official with the Pro-Life Activities Secretariat at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director for Policy Development with the NCCB Pro-Life Secretariat, today issued a statement critical of yesterday's report by ABC showing majority support for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
"While ABC reported afterward that its poll was about embryonic stem cell research, the poll itself simply asked people whether they support 'stem cell research,'" Doerflinger said. "Of course President Bush and pro-life lawmakers support stem cell research and other promising medical research. The real question before the President is whether to fund that part of stem cell research which requires destroying live human embryos. ABC did not ask that question."
Doerflinger also criticized ABC for providing participants in the poll with "false and prejudicial" background information, such as failing to mention the full range of options available to parents of embryos .conceived with the help of fertility clinics.
Opposition to embryonic stem cell research is overwhelming, according to Doerflinger, when the controversial issues associated with the practice are presented fully and in a balanced manner. A recent poll commissioned by the NCCB on the subject is available on the Web at: www.nccbuscc.org/comm/archives/2001/01-101.shtml
Associate Director for Policy Development
Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Re: ABC News poll on stem cell research
June 27, 2001
Last night ABC News released a biased and misleading poll claiming to show majority support for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
While ABC reported afterward that its poll was about embryonic stem cell research, the poll itself simply asked people whether they support "stem cell research."
Of course, President Bush and pro-life lawmakers support stem cell research and other promising medical research. The real question before the President is whether to fund that part of stem cell research which requires destroying live human embryos. ABC did not ask that question.
For months, viewers of ABC News have seen reports of startling progress in use of adult stem cells to treat heart damage, transform into different cell types, and so on. This poll exploits interest in such morally acceptable research, to give an artificial boost of support to quite different research that is unethical and has never helped a single human patient.
Those surveyed were first given background "information" that was false and prejudicial:
- ABC told them that when embryos in fertility clinics (inaccurately called "fertilized eggs" by ABC) are in "excess" of parents' current reproductive needs, the parents have the choice of discarding the embryos or donating them for research. In fact the parents generally have two other options: preserve the embryos for possible future use (chosen by about 90%), or donate them to another couple so they can have a child. The poll creates a false impression that for these embryos, the only alternative to being dissected for research is to be thrown away.
- ABC told them that some people support "stem cell research" because it holds potential for cures, while some oppose "stem cell research" because they oppose any "use" of embryos in research. This was confusing, to say the least. Why would opposition to use of embryos in research make someone oppose all stem cell research? In any case, Catholic teaching does not oppose all "use" of embryos in research (particularly research that may benefit that particular embryo), but opposes destroying human embryos for research. The poll never said that this is what is at stake.