More MS news articles for July 2001

4 of 5 LDS Senators Taking Stand In Support of Stem Cell Research

Thursday, July 19, 2001

Four of the five U.S. senators who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favor federal funding for at least limited research on stem cells taken from laboratory-produced embryos.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch for several weeks has prodded the Bush administration to authorize this type of research, arguing it holds hope for treating such things as heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes. His position has been criticized by some abortion opponents who consider it immoral to conduct research using fertilized embryos.
Three more Mormon senators -- Senate Whip Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; and Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. -- have adopted positions similar to Hatch's.
The only Mormon senator undecided on the issue is Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.
Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum and opponent of stem cell research, said she was "baffled" by the senators' decisions. "These people ought to know better than to say it is OK to kill these little unborn embryos. The fact these men are Mormons doesn't have anything to do with it. What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. It doesn't make any difference what church you belong to."
Meanwhile, Mormon church leaders repeated Wednesday they have not taken a position on this testing, although they said the idea "merits cautious scrutiny."
The LDS Church-owned Deseret News went further than that, editorializing Tuesday in favor of federal funding for stem cell research "within solid ethical boundaries." The editorial argued federal participation will assure discoveries are shared with the public.
Church spokesman Michael Otterson said the newspaper's editorial does not reflect a change in the position of the church. "The Deseret News isn't the church's official position," he said.
Smith, the Oregon Republican, offered strong support for the research during a Senate hearing Wednesday.
"I believe that life begins in a mother's womb, not in a scientist's laboratory," said Smith. "For me, being pro-life means helping the living as well. So if I err at all on this issue, I choose to err on the side of hope, healing, and health. And I believe the federal government should play a role in research to assure transparency, to assure morality, to assure humanity and to provide the ethical limits and moral boundaries which are important to this issue."
Reid, testifying at the same meeting, said: "Knowing that stem cells could save and improve lives in ways we never before imagined possible, it would be unconscionable to deny our most prominent scientists the use of federal funds for this promising research."
Crapo issued a statement saying he could support the research as long as it doesn't involve "the purposeful destruction of human embryos" and federal dollars are not used to finance programs that "harvest living embryos solely for the purpose of research."
Crapo's spokeswoman Susan Wheeler explained that if an in vitro fertilization process results in 10 embryos and only three are needed for a pregnancy, the remaining seven could be used for research rather than being discarded. But Crapo is opposed to creating the embryos for the purpose of stem cell testing only. n The LDS Church's Position:
"While the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have not taken a position at this time on the newly emerging field of stem cell research, it merits cautious scrutiny. The proclaimed potential to provide cures or treatments for many serious diseases needs careful and continuing study by conscientious, qualified investigators. As with any emerging new technology, there are concerns that must be addressed. Scientific and religious viewpoints both demand that strict moral and ethical guidelines be followed."