Cardinal Criticizes Final NIH Guidelines for Destructive Stem Cell Research
“In April I criticized the NIH’s draft guidelines for destructive embryonic stem cell research, saying that under these guidelines ‘federal tax dollars will be used to encourage destruction of living embryonic human beings for stem cell research – including human beings who otherwise would have survived and been born.’
“The final guidelines issued yesterday are even broader. Parents who are asked to consider having their embryonic children destroyed for research will not even have to be informed about all their other options – only about the options that happen to be available at their particular fertility clinic. Moreover, under the final guidelines, stem cell lines that existed previously or that are produced in foreign countries may be made eligible for federally funded research even if they were obtained in ways that violate one or more of the NIH's own informed consent requirements.
“The comments of tens of thousands of Americans opposing the destruction of innocent human life for stem cell research were simply ignored in this process. Even comments filed by the Catholic bishops’ conference and others against specific abuses in the draft guidelines were not addressed. For example, federally funded researchers will be allowed to insert human embryonic stem cells into the embryos of animal species other than primates; federal grants will be available even to researchers who themselves destroyed human embryos to obtain the stem cells for their research. Existing federal law against funding research in which human embryos are harmed or destroyed is not given due respect here.
“This debate now shifts to Congress, where some members have said even this policy does not go far enough in treating some human beings as objects to be created, manipulated and destroyed for others’ use. I hope Americans concerned about this issue will write to their elected representatives, urging them not to codify or further expand this unethical policy.”
For more information about the USCCB’s “Oppose Destructive Stem Cell Research” campaign, visit www.usccb.org/stemcellcampaign. Cardinal Rigali’s April 21 statement on the draft guidelines is at www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2009/09-087.shtml. The USCCB’s official comment letter of May 22 is at www.usccb.org/prolife/NIHcomments.pdf.
USCCB Submits Proposal to NIH on Stem Cell Guidelines
Msgr. Malloy cited the dignity of human life at every stage and the innate human right not to be subjected to harmful experimentation without one’s express and informed consent. He said laws that fail to recognize this right “do not succeed in nullifying the right in question, but only call into question their own moral legitimacy.”
Msgr. Malloy higlighted the “central fact of science” relevant to the issue of embryonic stem cell research, that the embryo that will be destroyed to obtain embryonic stem cells “is a human being at a very early stage of his or her development.”
This is not a matter of religious belief, he said, but a fact acknowledged by federal advisory groups on this issue, including the National Bioethics Advisory Commission appointed by President Clinton. This group concluded that because human embryos deserve “respect” as a form of human life, destroying them for stem cells is “justifiable only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research.”
Msgr. Malloy added that alternative methods of stem cell research, such as reprogramming ordinary adult cells into “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS cells) without harming human life, have made great advances under a federal policy preventing researchers from destroying live human embryos for federally funded research.
“Yet President Obama’s executive order of March 9 not only rescinded that policy, but also rescinded the executive order of 2007 instructing the NIH to thoroughly explore new avenues for obtaining pluripotent stem cells without destroying human embryos,” Msgr. Malloy said. “Both science and ethics have been ignored in this decision.”
Msgr. Malloy said the President’s executive order and the draft guidelines fail the Bioethics Commission’s test, “by failing to require that morally unproblematic avenues for exploring important medical research goals be thoroughly investigated before the NIH considers any avenues that require destroying embryonic human life.”
“Avenues of stem cell research which pose no moral problem are now showing great promise. In fact, human patients suffering from all the conditions cited by President Obama when he signed his executive order – cancer, juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease – have been shown in peer-reviewed studies to benefit from clinical trials using human stem cells,” he said. “And in every case, the benefit has come not from embryonic stem cells, but from the adult and cord blood stem cells that this organization and others have said should receive priority attention.”
Msgr. Malloy expressed relief the proposed guidelines do not seek to fund research in which embryos are created for the purpose of research, but explained how “in key respects the Guidelines are nonetheless broader or more permissive than any policy approved in the past by any branch of the federal government..” He also asked the Obama Administration to “make a clear and authoritative statement, as the Clinton Administration did, that it will never fund research that relies on the creation of human embryos for research purposes.”
“As the President noted,” Msgr. Malloy said, “we must not make ‘a false choice between sound science and moral values.’ In fact, these sources of guidance both point in the same direction, away from destructive embryonic stem cell research. His executive order and these Guidelines nonetheless insist on a course of action that is both morally objectionable and, increasingly, scientifically obsolete.”
Noting that prominent stem cell researchers have recently expressed their own moral misgivings about destroying human embryos for research, Msgr. Malloy concluded, “This is not merely a political or ideological problem, or a problem of religious dogma, but a deeply human problem: We are testing the limits of our obligation to treat all fellow human beings, of every age and condition, with basic respect.”
The full text of the comments to NIH regarding the draft guidelines can be found online at www.usccb.org/prolife/NIHcomments.pdf.
BISHOPS URGE CATHOLICS TO CONTACT CONGRESS AND NIH: OPPOSE DESTRUCTIVE STEM CELL RESEARCH
Following President Obama’s March 9 executive order, the NIH proposed guidelines for federally funded research that will require destroying live human embryos for their stem cells. The draft guidelines are open for public comment through May 26.
The campaign homepage, www.usccb.org/stemcellcampaign, summarizes why the proposed guidelines are unacceptable, provides links to USCCB resources (including the bishops’ statement “On Embryonic Stem Cell Research” and multi-media resources and ads), and encourages web users to “Contact Congress & NIH Now” through an e-mail interface. Several resources are available in both English and Spanish.
The campaign site explains that the NIH guidelines “would—for the first time—use taxpayer funds to encourage the killing of embryonic human beings for their stem cells.” It continues, “Embryonic stem cell research treats innocent human beings as mere sources of body parts, as commodities for our use.”
The webpage features a video of Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, critiquing the draft guidelines.
“The Catholic bishops of the United States will be writing to Congress and the Administration about the need to restore and maintain barriers against the mistreatment of human life in the name of science, and we urge other concerned citizens to do the same,” Cardinal Rigali said.
Catholics and other citizens are urged to contact both NIH and Congress because members of Congress and the Administration have expressed interest in pursuing an even broader policy. “They want to obtain stem cells by destroying human embryos specially generated for research through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or cloning procedures – a ‘create to kill’ policy,” the campaign page explains.
Those who want to call for stem cell research and cures “we can all live with” may speak out by visiting www.usccb.org/stemcellcampaign and clicking on “Contact Congress & NIH Now.”
Sad Victory of Politics Over Science and Ethics
Cardinal Rigali’s statement follows:
“President Obama’s new executive order on embryonic stem cell research is a sad victory of politics over science and ethics. This action is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested. It also disregards the values of millions of American taxpayers who oppose research that requires taking human life. Finally, it ignores the fact that ethically sound means for advancing stem cell science and medical treatments are readily available and in need of increased support.
“In his January 16th letter to President-elect Obama, Cardinal George, writing as President of the USCCB, cited three reasons why such destructive research is ‘especially pointless at this time’:
• ‘First, basic research in the capabilities of embryonic stem cells can be and is being pursued using the currently eligible cell lines as well as the hundreds of lines produced with nonfederal funds since 2001.
• ‘Second, recent startling advances in reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells – hailed by the journal Science as the scientific breakthrough of the year – are said by many scientists to be making embryonic stem cells irrelevant to medical progress.
• ‘Third, adult and cord blood stem cells are now known to have great versatility, and are increasingly being used to reverse serious illnesses and even help rebuild damaged organs. To divert scarce funds away from these promising avenues for research and treatment toward the avenue that is most morally controversial as well as most medically speculative would be a sad victory of politics over science.’
“If the government wants to invest in hope for cures and promote ethically sound science, it should use our tax monies for research that everyone, at every stage of human development, can live with.”
North Dakota One of Top Pro-Life States
On Thursday, January 22, Americans United for Life released its sixth annual ranking of the most and least pro-life states. While AUL's criteria covers states' treatment of all life issues, final rankings depend largely on each state's enactment of prudent and well-supported laws. Such laws fence in the abortion license granted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade. Among the laws AUL looks for are informed consent, parental involvement for minors, medically-supported regulation of abortion providers, and limitations on the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion.
According to the ranking:
‘North Dakota has taken the lead in two important and emerging areas: public funding for abortion alternatives and meaningful regulation of biotechnologies. North Dakota has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds to organizations promoting alternatives to abortion. North Dakota is also one of only a handful of states that bans human cloning and destructive embryo research.’
Read more from AUL’s website.
Find the the document and related items here.
Cardinal Rigali Urges Respect for Human Life, Opposition to ‘Freedom of Choice’ Act
WASHINGTON—In a statement to mark Respect Life Sunday, October 5, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia urged Catholics “to help build a culture in which every human life without exception is respected and defended.”
“Let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail and elderly who need our respect and our assistance,” he said. Cardinal Rigali chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Cardinal Rigali cited encouraging trends that “most Americans favor banning all abortion or permitting it only in very rare cases,” and that the U.S. abortion rate declined 26 percent between 1989 and 2004, with a 58 percent decline among girls under 18. He also addressed the threat posed by “FOCA,” a federal “Freedom of Choice Act” which, he said, “if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket.”
“We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America,” Cardinal Rigali said.
He hailed therapeutic successes using adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood.
“The Catholic Church strongly supports promising and ethically sound stem cell research – and strongly opposes killing week-old human embryos, or human beings at any stage, to extract their stem cells,” he said.
Cardinal Rigali also noted the continuing need to protect vulnerable patients at the end of life. Legalizing physician-assisted suicide, as proposed in a Washington State ballot initiative this November, would “betray the ideal of America as a compassionate society honoring the inherent worth of every human being.”
The Respect Life program, begun in 1972, stresses the value and dignity of human life. It is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States. This year’s theme is “Hope and Trust in Life!” The full statement follows.
STATEMENT FOR REPECT LIFE SUNDAY
Cardinal Justin F. Rigali
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro-life Activities
September 30, 2008
On October 5, 2008, Catholics across the United States will again celebrate Respect Life Sunday. Throughout the month of October, Catholic parishes and organizations will sponsor hundreds of educational conferences, prayer services, and opportunities for public witness, as well as events to raise funds for programs assisting those in need. Such initiatives are integral to the Church’s ongoing effort to help build a culture in which every human life without exception is respected and defended.
Education and advocacy during Respect Life Month address a broad range of moral and public policy issues. Among these, the care of persons with disabilities and those nearing the end of life is an enduring concern. Some medical ethicists wrongly promote ending the lives of patients with serious physical and mental disabilities by withdrawing their food and water, even though – or in some cases precisely because -- they are not imminently dying. This November, the citizens of Washington State will vote on a ballot initiative to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. In neighboring Oregon, where assisted suicide is already legal, the state has refused to cover the cost of life-sustaining treatments for some patients facing terminal illness, while callously informing them that Oregon will pay for suicide pills. Such policies betray the ideal of America as a compassionate society honoring the inherent worth of every human being.
Embryonic stem cell research also presents grave ethical concerns. The Catholic Church strongly supports promising and ethically sound stem cell research – and strongly opposes killing week-old human embryos, or human beings at any stage, to extract their stem cells. We applaud the remarkable therapeutic successes that have been achieved using stem cells from cord blood and adult tissues. We vigorously oppose initiatives, like the one confronting Michigan voters in November, that would endorse the deliberate destruction of developing human beings for embryonic stem cell research.
Turning to abortion, we note that most Americans favor banning all abortion or permitting it only in very rare cases (danger to the mother’s life or cases of rape or incest). Also encouraging is the finding of a recent Guttmacher Institute study that the U.S. abortion rate declined 26% between 1989 and 2004. The decline was steepest, 58%, among girls under 18. An important factor in this trend is that teens increasingly are choosing to remain abstinent until their late teens or early 20s. Regrettably, when they do become sexually active prior to marrying, many become pregnant and choose abortion -- the abortion rate increased among women aged 20 and older between 1974 and 2004, although the rate is now gradually declining.
Today, however, we face the threat of a federal bill that, if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket. The “Freedom of Choice Act” (“FOCA”) has many Congressional sponsors, some of whom have pledged to act swiftly to help enact this proposed legislation when Congress reconvenes in January.
FOCA establishes abortion as a “fundamental right” throughout the nine months of pregnancy, and forbids any law or policy that could “interfere” with that right or “discriminate” against it in public funding and programs. If FOCA became law, hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated. Gone would be laws providing for informed consent, and parental consent or notification in the case of minors. Laws protecting women from unsafe abortion clinics and from abortion practitioners who are not physicians would be overridden. Restrictions on partial-birth and other late-term abortions would be eliminated. FOCA would knock down laws protecting the conscience rights of nurses, doctors, and hospitals with moral objections to abortion, and force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the United States.
We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America.
For twenty-four years, the Catholic Church has provided free, confidential counseling to individuals seeking emotional and spiritual healing after an abortion, whether their own or a loved one’s. We look forward to the day when these counseling services are no longer needed, when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. If FOCA is enacted, however, that day may recede into the very distant future.
In this Respect Life Month, let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail and elderly who need our respect and our assistance. In this and in so many ways we will truly build a culture of life.
Science and Tech Growth the Right Way
What is not mentioned is that North Dakota made this improvement without legalizing and funding embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. Proponents of embryo research make it sound as though unless a state jumps on the funding bandwagon, it will be left behind. The data shows the contrary. Indeed, some states that expressly prohibit such activities do rather well in the study, while states that have sunk public funding into human cloning, like California and New Jersey, fell in the rankings.
Bishops Speak Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Internationally Known Speaker Wesley Smith Coming to North Dakota
Here is the announcement on his visit:
The Hankinson Chapter Right for Life is sponsoring a Gift of Life conference on Sunday, March 2, from 1:30 to 5 p.m. at the St. Francis Convent Gym in Hankinson. The conference features guest speaker, Wesley J. Smith.
Smith is an international lecturer and public speaker, appearing frequently at political, university, medical, legal, disability rights, bioethics, religious, and community gatherings across the United States, Europe, Canada, South Africa, and Australia.
The conference is free to the general public. Three contact hours are available for nurses and social workers at a cost of $10 per contact hour. Pre-registration by February 15 is helpful, walk-ins are welcome. For more information or to register, contact HCRL at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 242-7196.
North Dakota and Culture of Life: Maps Tell a Story
Major News on Stem Cell Research
“Studies published this week in the journals Cell and Science offer new hope for advancing stem cell research and therapies while fully respecting the dignity of human life.
“Scientists in Japan and Wisconsin used four genes to ‘reprogram’ ordinary adult human cells, creating ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ (iPS cells). James Thomson, head of the Wisconsin team and the founder of human embryonic stem cell research, says these cells ‘meet the defining criteria’ for pluripotent human embryonic stem cells, ‘with the significant exception that the iPS cells are not derived from embryos.’
“Thus the goal sought for years through failed attempts at human cloning – the production of ‘pluripotent’ stem cells that are an exact genetic match to a patient – has been brought within reach by an ethical procedure. This technology avoids the many ethical landmines associated with embryonic stem cell research: it does not clone or destroy human embryos, does not harm or exploit women for their eggs, and does not blur the line between human beings and other species through desperate efforts to make human embryos using animal eggs. Ian Wilmut, head of the team that cloned ‘Dolly’ the sheep, now says he is abandoning efforts at human ‘therapeutic cloning’ to pursue this adult cell reprogramming avenue instead, because it is technically superior as well as ‘easier to accept socially.’
“I am grateful today for scientists who took up the challenge of finding morally acceptable ways to pursue stem cell research, and for government leaders who have encouraged and funded such avenues. This advance reminds us once again that medical progress and respect for human life are not in conflict; they can and should support and enrich one another for the good of all.”
U.S. Bishops' on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Vote
WASHINGTON—An official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reacted to this evening’s vote by the U.S. Senate to approve legislation (S. 5) promoting the destruction of human embryos for federally funded stem cell research. The Senate voted for this bill 63 to 34. At the same time, S. 30, a bill to promote alternative ways to pursue stem cell research without harming human embryos, was also approved, 70 to 28.
Richard M. Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said: “With enactment of S. 5, millions of taxpayers would be forced to promote attacks on innocent human life in the name of scientific progress. Americans have not been required to assist in such direct exploitation of vulnerable human life in the past. Because the President has promised to veto this bill, and opposition to it in Congress is sufficient to uphold his veto in both House and Senate, we expect that this terrible burden will not be placed on the American people now.”
“Many members of Congress remain dazzled by irresponsibly hyped promises of ‘miracle cures’ from the destruction of human embryos, although experts in the field increasingly admit that treatments from this avenue may be decades away,” said Mr. Doerflinger. “This debate continues to divert attention and resources away from the demonstrated therapeutic promise of morally sound research using adult and cord blood stem cells. Not only embryonic human beings, but suffering patients and their families, are victims of the Senate’s fixation on destructive research.”
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Conference Testifies in Support of Bill on Umbilical Cord Blood Bank
The bill is in the House Human Services Committee.
U.S. Bishops' Official Reacts to House Passage of Destructive Stem Cell Research Bill
"Today the House voted to force all taxpayers to fund stem cell research requiring the destruction of human embryos. As in the past, President Bush has pledged to veto this misguided and unethical legislation, and there are not enough votes to override that veto.
"Congress should now turn its attention to stem cell research that poses no moral problem – constructive research that is already beginning to help patients with dozens of conditions in clinical trials. Unlike embryonic stem cell research, research using stem cells from adult tissue, umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid and other sources is showing enormous promise and is likely to produce new treatments for patients now living.
"Most Americans support stem cell research, and most greatly prefer that this research advance without harming or destroying human life at any stage. The truly statesmanlike approach to this issue would be to take up this challenge, supporting medical progress that all Americans can live with."