Bishops urge Congress to reject bill that favors embryonic stem-cell research

.- The U.S. bishops urged the House of Representatives to reject a bill that would fund embryonic stem-cell research, which would require the destruction of human embryos.

The bishops instead called the legislators to lend greater support to more promising and morally acceptable research, using stem cells from adult tissues and from umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid, and placentas.

The appeal was made in a January 9th letter, written by from Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities. The House is expected to vote on the bill Jan. 11th.

In his letter, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Philadelphia urged legislators to reject H.R. 3 and to support “medical progress that we can all live with.”

“The federal government has never taken the crass utilitarian approach of forcing taxpayers to support the direct killing of innocent human life, at any stage of development, in the name of ‘progress,’” he wrote.

He said legislators would cross “the fundamental moral line” if it passes H.R. 3.

The cardinal-archbishop also noted that many promising avenues of medical progress – such as stem cell research with adult tissues or umbilical cord blood — have received little funding because of the “almost exclusive focus on destructive embryo research in the political and policymaking arena.”

Embryonic stem-cell research, despite all the hype, has not led to any significant advances in therapeutic treatments to date.

“On a practical level, embryonic stem cell research has been as disappointing in its results as it has been divisive to our society,” he wrote. After almost three decades of research in mouse embryonic stem cells and nine years in the human variety, researchers can scarcely point to a safe and effective “cure” for any condition in mice let alone human beings.

“I urge you to vote against H.R. 3 for the sake of genuine progress for suffering patients, who deserve better solutions than this most speculative and most divisive type of stem cell research,” the cardinal told legislators in his letter.

Non-embryonic stem cell research has helped patients with over 70 conditions in early peer-reviewed studies, the cardinal noted.

The White House Domestic Policy Council was to release a report yesterday, citing a new study from researchers at Wake Forest University that found stem cells derived from amniotic fluid appear to offer many of the same benefits of embryonic stem cells.

According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal, the report may be a precursor to an executive order, signed by President George Bush, promoting stem-cell research that does not involve the destruction of human life.

White House spokesperson Tony Fratto did not give details on the executive order but told the Journal that the Bush administration is “clearly working on ways we can direct whatever tools and funding we can" to stem-cell research that does not kill human embryos.

"We are exploring all the alternative science that maybe will make this question moot so we as a society do not have to deal with this moral grudge match," Fratto was quoted as saying.

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