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March 15, 2009

Archdiocese’s pro-life director responds to Obama action

By Mary-Louise Kurey

Director, Respect Life Office Archdiocese of Chicago

It is tragic that President Obama has chosen to expand federal funding for research involving the destruction of thousands of human embryos. Such a decision defies both moral boundaries established by the natural law and a growing consensus in the scientific community that such research will be fruitless for finding real cures.

Most standard embryology textbooks state that human life begins at fertilization. “Human development begins at fertilization… This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as an individual” (The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology; Moore, Persaud, Saunders). Using public funding to take the life of any innocent human being is a grave affront to justice and human dignity. This is why President Obama’s predecessor in his own party, President Clinton, restricted funding for such research because, as his top bioethics team stated, “human embryos are deserving of respect.” Expanding such funding will surely result in the unjust taking of more innocent lives.

In addition, an increasing number of prominent members of the scientific community believe that research involving human embryonic stem cells is obsolete. Dr. Bernardine Healey, the first female director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote an article in the March 4 U.S. News and World Report highlighting a study from Israel showing that treatments using human embryonic stem cells cause cancerous tumors in patients. Such results were also found in another study published in the January issue of Nature Biotechnology.

Moreover, important developments have occurred in reprogramming adult stem cells to take on pluripotent qualities, which was hailed by the journal “Science” as the top scientific breakthrough of last year. Between the major advances being made with these “induced pluripotent stem cells” and those already made with adult stem cells and stem cells from umbilical cord blood, it is simply wrong that money is being used for research that is both unethical and ineffective at this challenging economic time.