Catholic Bishops Urge Senate to Reject Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funds

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 5, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops Urge Senate to Reject Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funds Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 5
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — The nation’s Catholic bishops are calling on the Senate to oppose a bill next week that would force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research that involves the destruction of human life. The Senate is expected to vote on that measure and an alternative bill on April 11 after a debate on both bills the day before.

Cardinal Justin Rigali the Archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the pro-life office at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to the Senate Wednesday.

“With enactment of such legislation, federal law would for the first time force taxpayers to encourage deliberate attacks on innocent human life in the name of medical progress,” the Cardinal said, according to a copy provided to

Rigali emphasized that the stem cell issue is not a matter of supporting versus opposing scientific or medical progress.

“The question is whether our technical progress is guided by an equally advanced sense of the dignity of each and every human life, so our technology becomes a servant to humanity and not our cruel master,” the Cardinal wrote.

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, he said that "research that relies on ‘the planned suppression of human beings who already exist, even if they have not yet been born,’ is ‘not truly at the service of humanity.’”

The Catholic leader also pointed out the problems associated with the controversial research and said that senators, if they’re truly concerned about the best interests of patients, would look to alternatives.

“On a practical level, embryonic stem cell research has been as disappointing in its results as it has been divisive to our society," Rigali wrote.

He explained that “Problems such as uncontrollable growth and tumor formation have forced researchers to conclude that it may take a decade or more of very expensive research even to determine whether embryonic stem cells may someday be used to treat a human condition.”

“It seems virtually every byproduct of live birth — amniotic fluid, amniotic membrane, placenta, cord blood, and the tissue of the umbilical cord itself — contains stem cells that may rival embryonic stem cells in their flexibility,” he added, talking about adult stem cell research.

The alternative bill — sponsored by Republican Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Johnny Isakson of Georgia — would encourage federal funding for research into new ways to obtain different kinds of stem cells, without harming human embryos in the process.

The bill (S. 30) includes a proposal to study the feasibility of banking amniotic and placental stem cells, modeled on the banking of bone marrow and cord blood stem cells that have saved the lives of patients with dozens of conditions.

Rigali said that Senators should consider that bill instead of S. 5, the funding measure.

“Unlike S. 5, it gives priority to research that promises genuine benefits for patients in the short term — a priority that supporters of S. 5 have neglected in their zeal for speculative embryo research,” the Cardinal wrote.

Last year, the House and Senate approved the embryonic funding bills and President Bush vetoed the final version of the measure. The House failed to override the veto and the Senate didn’t vote but was just short of the two-thirds vote needed to override.

The November elections gave funding backers more votes and the Senate appears to have enough votes to override a veto but the House is still short — it already voted on its version of the new bill, which it approved on a 253-174 vote in January.

Once Congress sends the funding bill to the president, Bush has promised to veto the measure. The Senate would then take up an override veto and, if successful, the House would try to follow suit.

ACTION: Please contact your U.S. senators over the next two weeks and urge them to oppose S. 5, the bill to force taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research. You can reach any senator at 202-224-3121 or find specific contact information by going to

Related web sites:
USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat –