Ninety-four members of Congress wrote to President Donald Trump last week asking that he issue an Executive Order to end federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, revoke an Obama-era order removing limitations on the funding, and that those funds be redirected to ethical alternatives.
“We write today to urge you to issue an Executive Order to end taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research and to redirect these scarce federal research dollars toward alternatives that make a real difference for patients,” the lawmakers said.
Human embryonic stem cells are acquired by destroying human embryos, who are young human beings, they said, and thus funding embryonic stem research results in the destruction of human life.
“Human embryos are young human beings, and human life should never be expended as a mere means of benefiting another,” they wrote.
The 22 U.S. Senators and 72 U.S. Representatives led by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) argued that the funds currently used for human embryonic stem cell research should go to ethical alternatives with proven results for patients, such as adult and induced pluripotent stem cell research.
Lauding Trump’s pro-life record and his promise to veto any spending bill that would undermine current federal pro-life policies, including those that protect taxpayer dollars from funding "embryo-destructive research," the legislators’ letter also expressed disappointment, saying that in spite of the administration’s strong pro-life stance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has not only continued but “accelerated the Obama-era policy of funding research that involves the destruction of young human embryos.”
“We urge you to bring an end to NIH's unethical and ineffective hESC research efforts and support research that will respect the sanctity of human life and deliver real benefits for patients,” they said.
In 2001, President George W. Bush had allowed federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research but limited it to existing cell lines at the time of the announcement, a press statement from Senate Pro-Life Caucus said. President Barack Obama later lifted Bush’s limitations after taking office in 2009.
Since Trump took office in 2017 and kept Dr. Francis Collins (who supports human embryonic stem cell research) as NIH director, the NIH has approved 106 new embryonic stem cell lines at the expense of taxpayers, the release said.
Further, since 2017 the NIH has spent between $250 to $300 million taxpayer dollars annually on embryonic stem cell research, exceeding the Obama administration by tens of millions of dollars.
It noted as well that the Trump administration’s 2019 limitations on NIH research using fetal tissue from elective abortion did not limit human embryonic stem research.
Despite over a decade of unrestricted research there is no evidence that a single patient’s life has been saved through a treatment that uses human embryonic stem cells, the Pro-Life Caucus statement continued, however, adult stem cells have treated more than 1.5 million patients.
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The Congress members noted in the letter that the NIH estimates it will spend another $321 million on hESC research in Fiscal Year 2020.
“These expenditures incentivize the continued destruction of human life and leave a moral blot on the NIH,” they said. “We believe pro-life Americans would be deeply troubled to learn of the extent of NIH's practices and ongoing plans.”
The NIH hESC research expenditures are not only unethical, they said, but also inconsistent with longstanding law protecting human embryos, referencing the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used to support research in which human embryos are destroyed.
“It is noteworthy that the destruction of human embryos has not yielded the miraculous benefits that advocates promised two decades ago,” the lawmakers wrote. “After more than $2 billion in federal taxpayer funding - and much more than that in state funding - there has yet to be proof of a single patient's life being saved through embryonic stem cell treatments.”
“At the same time, adult stem cells have treated more than one and a half million patients, and recent scientific advances promise even more benefits from the use of adult stem cells,” they added. “It is therefore in the interest of all taxpayers to redirect federal monies away from hESC research and toward efforts that bring real benefits to patients.”
Pro-life groups praised Trump’s administration late last month after an independent federal ethics advisory board convened by the administration recommended that all but one grant proposal for federally-funded medical research using human fetal tissue donated after elective abortions be rejected.