Stem Cell Research: Ethics Panel Formally Backs Federal Funding

Washington -- July 1999 -- The National Bioethics Advisory Commission yesterday formally recommended to both the White House and the National Institutes of Health that federally funded scientists be allowed to "use donated human embryos as a source" for stem cell research, USA Today reports.

Although the 17-member panel also called for a national "registry and certification of stem cells" to document their approved source, the recommendation quickly drew fire from some pro-life members of Congress.

Pro-life member Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR) said that "dissecting" human embryos at any stage "is immoral." Dickey, who sponsored the 1995 federal ban on human embryo research, said that if stem cells derived from human embryos do not fall under that umbrella, "legislation will be written and likely passed by the House." He predicted, "This is going to create one of the deepest divisions on Capitol Hill."

Stem cell research proponent Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) agreed that the recommendation will likely prove "controversial," but said, "My sense is the Senate will be in favor of it" (Friend, USA Today, 7/14).

Calling on Congress to "maintain the ban on money for any sort of human research," nearly 100 "prominent ethicists, scientists and pro-life activists issued a statement calling the research unethical and "scientifically unnecessary," the Gannett News Service/Detroit News reports.

"There is some confusion over the simple language of this ban," said pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS). However, he added, "We believe this language is clear. The avenue being pursued by the administration is illegal," he said, taking issue with NIH's contention that federal funds could go toward "research on existing stem cells no matter their source."

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Frank Young and former National Right to Life Committee President Dr. J.C. Willkie were among those signing the statement. "This work begins with the destruction of living human beings," Young said. "I'm a scientist. The case of a new field is wonderful, it's exciting. But there are other ways to get stem cells," he said (Neus, Detroit News, 7/14).

Provided by: The Pro-Life Infonet, a daily compilation of pro-life news and information. To subscribe, send the message "subscribe" to: infonet- Infonet is sponsored by Women and Children First ( For more pro-life info visit and for questions or additional information email

Return to the Abortion Main Page.