Communications Department

NRLC Letter to U.S. Senators Opposing Specter-Harkin Bill (S. 723) to Kill Human Embryos for Stem Cell Research

Jun 6, 2001 | Killing Embryos

(202) 626-8820

June 6, 2001

RE: Specter-Harkin bill (S. 723) to kill human embryos

Dear Senator:

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) urges you to oppose legislation (S. 723), proposed by Senators Specter and Harkin, to authorize federal sponsorship and funding of research that kills human embryos. This bill could come before the Senate at any time.

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. The Specter-Harkin bill would rupture that principle by authorizing federally sponsored researchers to obtain living embryos and dissect them – thereby killing them – 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, such as 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

Supporters of this legislation argue that it “cannot result in creating human embryos,” but would merely utilize “donated embryos” who “would have otherwise been discarded.” In reality, there are agencies that arrange adoptions of, and countless couples that want to adopt, these so-called “surplus” embryos. Supporters also argue 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 specieshomo sapiens, and the act of removing the stem cells kills that human embryo. The Specter-Harkin bill would authorize federal funding of every stage of this process, including the act of killing, which the bill euphemistically refers to as “the derivation of stem cells.”

We anticipate that any key procedural or direct votes on S. 723 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