Nancy Pelosi reiterates support for embryonic stem cell research

ppobamapelosi070109 President-elect Barack Obama / Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has described herself as an “ardent, practicing Catholic,” has again reiterated her support for funding embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

Her remarks were published January 4 in the International Herald Tribune, discussing Democratic proposals to implement funding legislation to overturn policies set by the Bush administration.

"I myself would favor legislation, so it is the law,” she said.

Speaker Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, has been criticized by bishops and other Catholics for her misleading remarks on Catholic teaching and ethical duties towards unborn human life, the California Catholic Daily reports. In her August 2008 interview with Meet the Press, she said the point at which life begins has been “an issue of controversy” over the history of the Church.

Among other prominent prelates, Cardinal Justin Rigali of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Bishop William Lori of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine issued a joint statement that said the Speaker “misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.”

Last September, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer invited Speaker Pelosi to converse with him about her Catholic faith and her positions in conflict with Catholic teaching.

“Let us pray together that the Holy Spirit will guide us all toward a more profound understanding and appreciation for human life, and toward a resolution of these differences in truth and charity and peace,” he said.

There has been no report concerning whether Speaker Pelosi has conversed with the archbishop, the California Catholic Daily reports.

Speaker Pelosi’s latest remarks on embryonic stem cell research come as the incoming Congress and the Obama administration are expected to lift restrictions on its funding.

In 2001, President George W. Bush signed an executive order prohibiting federal funding of research on embryonic stem cells, excepting 60 existing stem cell lines from embryos which had already been destroyed. In June 2007, another executive order authorized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to fund stem cell research only if the cells were produced by methods that do not create, destroy, or harm human embryos.

Bush vetoed ESCR funding bills in 2006 and 2007. Justifying his 2007 veto, he said “If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers -- for the first time in our history -- to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos.”

“I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line,” he added. “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical -- and it is not the only option before us.”

In June 2008 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterated the teaching of the Church on ESCR, saying “Harvesting these ‘embryonic stem cells’ involves the deliberate killing of innocent human beings, a gravely immoral act.”

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