Washington (July 15, 1988) -- The General Secretary of the United States Catholic Conference and National Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed "grave concern" over the decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to appoint an Ethics Advisory Board which will approve in vitro fertilization experiments in humans.
Msgr. Daniel F. Hoye noted that the Catholic Bishops of the United States have long been on record against federal funding of in vitro fertilization in humans for a number of reasons, including the abortifacient character of this procedure.
He said that Congressional testimony by IVF researchers has made it clear that much of the research they wish to pursue using laboratory-generated embryos "is not only unethical in itself, but also intended to render more efficient the elimination of prenatal lives considered genetically imperfect."
"For all these reasons, I urge HHS Secretary Bowen to reconsider his decision to pursue this kind of research, which does not conform to the Administration's stated policy of respect for human life from the moment of conception," Msgr. Hoye said.
In 1979 an Ethics Advisory Board reported to the Secretary of HEW on the advisability of funding in vitro fertilization projects involving humans. The board refrained from recommending such support, citing "uncertain risks" to both mother and offspring, "the dangers of abuse," such as experimental manipulation of the embryo, and the fact that the procedure is "morally objectionable to many."
Citing abortifacient elements of the in vitro procedure and other factors, the U.S. Catholic Conference was among those successfully urging the Secretary not to institute such funding.
However, in a statement before the Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations, Committee on Government Operations, Dr. Robert E. Windom, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, announced July 14 that an Ethics Advisory Board will be appointed. This would end the 9-year-old de facto federal ban on human in vitro fertilization research.
This is the text of Msgr. Hoye's statement:
The Catholic bishops of the United States have long opposed federal funding of in vitro fertilization in humans for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the abortifacient character of this procedure. In 1979 the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare received comments from over 13,000 citizens and 80 members of Congress, the overwhelming majority of which opposed federal support of IVF. Since that time, the government has maintained a de facto moratorium on funding of such research by refraining from appointment of the Ethics Advisory Board necessary for review and approval of specific experiments.
I therefore view with grave concern yesterday's decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to appoint a new EAB to review and approve IVF experiments in humans. Only last year, congressional testimony on behalf of the NCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities stated that "recent developments have only heightened the concerns that led us" to oppose federal funding in 1979. Recent studies suggest that over 95 percent of the embryos outside the mother's body has made possible the deliberate discarding, freezing and experimental manipulation of human beings at their earliest state of development. I conclude from congressional testimony by IVF researchers that much of the research they wish to pursue using laboratory-generated embryos is not only unethical in itself, but also intended to render more genetically imperfect.
For all these reasons I urge HHS Secretary Bowen to reconsider his decision to pursue this kind of research, which does not conform to the Administration's stated policy of respect for human life form the moment of conception.