Communications Department

NRLC Letter to U.S. House of Representatives, Opposing McDermott Bill (H.R. 2059) to Kill Human Embryos, and Supporting the Responsible Stem Cell Research Act

Jun 6, 2001 | Killing Embryos

(202) 626-8820

June 6, 2001

RE: Responsible Stem Cell Research Act vs. Rep. McDermott’s bill to fund killing of human embryos

Dear Member of Congress:

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) urges you to oppose legislation introduced on June 5 by Congressman Jim McDermott (H.R. 2059), titled the “Stem Cell Research Act of 2001,” because it would authorize federal sponsorship and funding of research that kills embryonic human beings.

We encourage you to cosponsor instead the Responsible Stem Cell Research Act of 2001, to be introduced on June 7 by Congressman Chris Smith and others.

Current law [the Dickey Amendment, in Public Law 106-554] prohibits federal funding of any “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” This law embodies the principle that non-consenting human beings must not be subjected to harmful medical experimentation. Rep. McDermott’s bill would rupture that principle by authorizing federally sponsored researchers to dissect and thereby kill living human embryos to obtain their stem cells.

The debate is not about “stem cell research” per se. The federal government properly supports the work of many medical researchers who are utilizing human stem cells obtained from sources that do not require the destruction of human embryos, which include adult fat, blood, bone marrow and nerve tissue, as well as umbilical cords and placentas. There have been many recent breakthroughs in adult stem-cell research, as detailed on the website of Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, at

Congressman Smith’s bill would authorize $30 million for the National Institutes of Health to support ethical adult stem cell research, and also would authorize funding for NIH to establish a bank of stem cells from other sources that do not involve the destruction of human embryos.

In a June 6 “Dear Colleague” letter, Rep. McDermott argues that his bill “cannot result in creating human embryos,” but would merely utilize “donated embryos” who Awould have otherwise been discarded.@ In reality, there are agencies that arrange adoptions of, and countless couples who want to adopt, these so-called “surplus” embryos.

Rep. McDermott also observes that “embryonic stem cells themselves are not embryos,” but this is merely a crude attempt to sidestep the fact that the process begins with a living human embryo, an individual member of the species homo sapiens, and the act of removing the stem cells kills that human embryo. Rep. McDermott’s bill would authorize federal funding of every stage of this process, including the act of killing, which Rep. McDermott euphemistically refers to as “the actual derivation of embryonic stem cells.”

We anticipate that any key procedural or direct votes on federal funding of embryo-destructive research will be included in NRLC’s scorecard of key right-to-life votes of the 107th Congress.

Thank you for your consideration of NRLC’s position on this important issue.


Douglas Johnson

Legislative Director

Categories: Killing Embryos