Washington, DC -- As two very different bills are introduced in the House of Representatives this week on stem cell research, a new poll commissioned by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops shows that Americans strongly prefer one approach over the other.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) has introduced the "Stem Cell Research Act of 2001" (H.R. 2059) to change the law so federal funds can be used to destroy human embryos for their stem cells. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) has introduced the "Responsible Stem Cell Research Act of 2001" to increase funding for stem cell research that does not require destruction of human life at any stage.
Questions about these two approaches to stem cell research were included in a multi-issue survey conducted by International Communications Research (ICR), a national polling firm headquartered in Media, Pennsylvania. A weighted sample of over a thousand American adults was surveyed by telephone between June 1 and June 5 to obtain the results.
The poll suggests that Americans oppose federal funding of stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos, by a factor of almost three to one (70% to 24%). Asked to choose between funding all stem cell research (both adult and embryonic), and funding only adult stem cell research and similar alternatives to see if there is no need to destroy embryos for research, Americans prefer the latter approach by an even wider margin (67% to 18%).
"Polls sponsored by groups promoting destructive embryo research claim to show broad support for their agenda," says Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director for Policy Development at the NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "They create this illusion by using what political campaigns call 'push polls' -- presenting false and misleading claims as though they are fact, to push the respondent to a favorable answer. They even avoid mentioning the destruction of human embryos, asking only if people support the use of stem cells 'that come from excess fertilized eggs.' Perhaps they use this scientifically absurd euphemism out of fear that many Americans recognize a 'human embryo' as a human life."
"Even the Clinton Administration's guidelines for embryonic stem cell research insist that parents donating embryos for this research must be told that the embryos will not survive the harvesting process," said Mr. Doerflinger. "Federal officials recognized that failing to mention this important fact would violate parents' right to informed consent. Why do some advocacy groups want to deny Americans that right of informed consent when they conduct polls?"
The results of the new ICR survey are as follows:
1. Stem cells are the basic cells from which all of a person's tissues and organs develop. Congress is considering whether to provide federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos. The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells. Do you support or oppose using your federal tax dollars for such experiments?
Don't know 4.8%
2. Stem cells for research can be obtained by destroying human embryos. They can also be obtained from adults, from placentas left over from live births, and in other ways that do no harm to the donor. Scientists disagree on which source may end up being most successful in treating diseases. How would you prefer your tax dollars to be used this year for stem cell research?
Supporting all methods, including those that require destroying human embryos, to see which will be most successful - 17.6%
Supporting research using adult stem cells and other alternatives, to see if there is no need to destroy human embryos for research. - 66.8%
Neither (volunteered) - 8.6%
Don't know - 6.3%
Refused - 0.7%
The survey of 1013 adult Americans has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.