U.S. Bill to Fund Work on New Cell Lines Is Assailed

Washington, USA - The U.S. bishops are urging Congress to reject a bill that would federally fund stem-cell research on new embryos from fertility clinics.

Cardinal William Keeler, chairman of the bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, sent a letter to Congress saying that the new bill would "encourage large-scale destruction of innocent human life for research purposes."

If passed, the bill would invalidate the Bush administration's policy of funding only research on embryonic stem-cell lines already in existence.

"I urge you in the strongest possible terms to oppose all destructive and morally offensive proposals of this kind," Cardinal Keeler said in his letter sent Tuesday.

The cardinal argued that "researchers increasingly acknowledge that the apparent initial 'promise' of ESCs was exaggerated," and that alternative methods, such as using adult stems cells, have shown more promise in research to treat juvenile diabetes, corneal damage, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, sickle-cell anemia, cardiac damage and many other conditions.

"The current federal policy of funding research on a limited number of existing ESC lines has achieved its stated goal -- that of exploring which avenues of stem cell research will most quickly and effectively lead to promising treatments," Cardinal Keeler stated.

"The emerging answer is that ESC research is not one of those avenues," he wrote. "If there is to be any change in the existing policy, it should be to end this limited funding of ESC research altogether, so taxpayers' resources can more effectively be marshaled for research now showing itself to be more ethically and medically sound."