By Kent Larsen
4 of 5 Mormon Senators Support Stem Cell Research
WASHINGTON, DC -- Two more LDS Senators announced their agreement with Utah
Senator Orrin Hatch's support of research using embryonic stem cells.
Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Mike Crapo of Idaho joined
Hatch and Oregon Republican Gordon Smith in urging US President George W.
Bush to allow federally-funded research using the cells, which come from
human embryos, usually those that will be discarded after fertility
procedures. The announcements leave only Utah Senator Bob Bennett undecided
on the issue.
These announcements come about two weeks after Hatch announced his position
and sent a memo to Bush outlining his support for the controversial
research. The research had previously been outlawed by Congress, subject to
Presidential regulation, and the Clinton administration had made plans to
support the research. Following the election Bush was widely expected to
kill the Clinton administration plans, but support from Hatch and other
conservatives, along with lobbying from the scientific and medical
communities, recently led Bush to look at the issue more carefully. In
addition, the high profile that the stem cell research issue has received
made it difficult for Bush to make a decision quietly and without controversy.
Following Hatch's announcement, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints issued its own statement on stem cell research, expressing no
opinion, but urging caution, "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."
And earlier this week the Church-owned Deseret News then came out in favor
of the research, limiting it "within solid ethical boundaries." But Church
spokesman Michael Otterson said that the newspaper's position shouldn't be
read as a reflection of the Church's position, "The Deseret News isn't the
church's official position," Otterson said.
In their statements and arguments about the issue, Hatch, Smith and the
other LDS Senators have not only communicated the logic they used, but have
gone farther, making a theological argument for the research. On Wednesday,
Senator Smith cited Genesis, Chapter 2, Verse 7 in his statements to a panel
of the Senate Appropriations Committee on stem-cell research. Smith argues
that the creation in Genesis was a two-step process: God formed man from the
dust, and then breathed into man's nostrils "the breath of life." He implied
that a similar process occurs at conception, saying cells are like the dust
of the earth, only given life when placed in the womb.
Hatch, in comments to the New York Times made a similar argument, "I have
searched my conscience. I just cannot equate a child living in the womb,
with moving toes and fingers and a beating heart, with an embryo in a freezer."
The other LDS Senators have made another argument, also outlined by Hatch in
his memo, that the potential benefits of stem cell research are extremely
important. Senator Reid, also testifying to the Senate Appropriations
Committee Wednesday, 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." This logic was also influential with Senator Smith, who
lost his grandmother, an uncle and a cousin (Arizona Democrat Morris K.
Udall) to Parkinson's disease, and learned just over a week ago that his
brother-in-law has it as well. "I am unwilling to close any scientific
door," he told CNN last week.
Senator Crapo's statement on the issue is more cautious, supporting the
research as long as it doesn't involve "the purposeful destruction of human
embryos solely for the purpose of research." A spokeswoman said the
statement means that Crapo is opposed to creating embryos simply for the
purpose of stem cell testing.
Surprisingly, only one prominent Mormon was quoted in newspaper accounts
opposing stem cell research. Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative
Utah Eagle Forum said she was "baffled" by the senator's decisions and
claimed that religious belief had little to do with the issue, "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."
Other conservatives also criticized the positions taken by LDS Senators,
especially Senator Smith's use of the Bible to support his decision. A
Catholic church representative called his interpretation of the Bible
"amateur theology," and Richard Doerflinger of the US Conference of Catholic
Bishops called the connection of the "breath of life" with the womb
"absurd." "An embryo's development is directed completely from within--the
womb simply provides a nurturing environment." He asked if scientists
created an artificial womb, wouldn't a child born from it still be human?
4 of 5 LDS Senators Taking Stand In Support of Stem Cell Research
Salt Lake Tribune 19Jul01 T2
By Jim Woolf: Salt Lake Tribune
Bible Guides Senate on Stem Cell Studies
Los Angeles Times 19Jul01 T2
By Aaron Zitner: Times Staff Writer
GOP senator, a doctor, backs stem cell research
Chicago Tribune 19Jul01 T2
By Becky Waddingham: Washington Bureau