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CATHOLIC FREE PRESS

June 22, 2001

Religious leaders make plea to HHS against embryonic stem-cell research

WASHINGTON (CNS) Leaders of religious organizations wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson June 14 asking him to oppose stem-cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos.

"The greater weight of the decision to use embryonic stem cells rests squarely on your shoulders," the letter said, urging Thompson to recognize that his "leadership on this most important ethical question will provide guidance on scientific experimentation at one of the most critical turning points in human history."

The letter was from the Family/Research Council and was signed by 13 leaders from other organizations, including several Catholics: Father Richard Neuhaus, director of the Institute on Religion and Public Life; Father Frank Pavone national director of Priests for Life, Austin Ruse, director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute; Raymond Flynn, national president of Catholic Alliance; and Bill Bennett, director of Empower America.

The letter quoted Pope John Paul II's encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," in which he said the "use of human embryos or fetuses as an object for experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born. "

It also quoted a May 18 letter that President Bush wrote to the president of the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington.

In the letter, Bush said he opposed federal funding for stem-cell research that involves destroying living human embryos and supports "innovative medical research on life-threatening and debilitating diseases, including promising research on stem cells from adult tissue."

In the letter to Thompson, the religious leaders said the debate was not solely about stem-cell research, because they supported such research as long as it does not require the destruction of human embryos.

"Some have maintained that frozen embryos are not alive. This is misleading,"' the letter said. "It is precisely because such embryos are living that their stem cells are attractive for research.

"Please understand that recent advances in adult stem-cell research have made the killing of human embryos unnecessary," it added.

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