The Orthodox Union is lending its support to a contentious House bill that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
The bill, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, sponsored by Rep. Michael Castle, a Delaware Republican, and by Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, seeks to extend federal funding to research on stem-cell lines derived from excess embryos created in fertility clinics. Currently federal law restricts funding for the research to several stem-cell lines derived before August 9, 2001.
The restrictions were enacted at the urging of Catholic and conservative Christian groups, which opposed the research because they believe embryos to be human beings. Proponents of the research — including most Jewish groups — believe that embryos outside the womb do not constitute human beings and that the benefits of such research outweigh the destruction of the cells.
In a letter to members of the House of Representatives, the union wrote, “By insisting that publicly funded stem-cell research be conducted on cells derived from embryos donated to IVF clinics in excess and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking IVF treatment, and by requiring prior consultation with and consent of the donors, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act serves to value and venerate the sanctity of life and our responsibilities to our fellow man and woman.”
The bill, which has 199 co-sponsors, is being opposed by some prominent conservatives and risks the veto of President Bush should it make it through both houses of Congress.
The director of the union’s Institute for Public Affairs, Nathan Diament, said the bill was “narrowly tailored” and had “broad bipartisan support.” He said the Orthodox Union wanted to show that “there are moral and religious arguments on both sides. There are scientific arguments on both sides.”
Also supporting the bill are Hadassah, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, the American Diabetes Association and others.