By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 20, 2009 ( – According to draft guidelines released Friday by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), taxpayer-funded embryo-destructive research will not create human life for harvesting, but will only use “leftover” embryos from fertility clinics. 

While left-leaning scientists are dissatisfied with the restriction, pro-life groups have also said that the guidelines will ultimately do little to rein in more expansive future forms of destructive human experimentation. Pro-life critics have said that the regulations are simply a significant step in a deliberate incremental plan towards ensuring unrestricted federal funding for every stage of embryo-destructive research.

The NIH, the federal government’s medical research agency, was directed to draft guidelines to provide for the “ethically responsible” manipulation of embryonic stem cells after President Obama signed an executive order last month granting taxpayer funding for the research.

The NIH’s draft guidelines stipulate that, “Human embryonic stem cells may be used in research using NIH funds, if the cells were derived from human embryos that were created for reproductive purposes, were no longer needed for this purpose, [and] were donated for research purposes.”

The NIH acknowledges that, due to current legal restrictions, it cannot fund with taxpayer dollars the actual killing of an embryo, nor use cells from embryos conceived primarily for harvesting.

A month-long period for public comment on the draft guidelines has begun, and the NIH is expected to issue a final draft in July. (To see the full draft guidelines:

The guidelines comply with an amendment that has been included in the U.S. senate’s annual appropriations bill since 1995, known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bans federal funding “the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero.”

However, at least two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Mike Castle, R-Del., have indicated that they intend to remove Dickey-Wicker, which would, if successful, completely free up taxpayer funds for unrestricted embryo-destructive research. (

“The Obama Administration today slides further down the slippery slope of exploiting non-consenting members of the human species – human embryos,” stated the National Right to Life Committee’s Legislative Director Douglas Johnson on Friday.

Johnson said the “seeming restraint” displayed in the NIH draft guidelines “is part of an incremental strategy intended to desensitize the public to the concept of killing human embryos for research purposes.” 

“Even today, NIH officials assert that they can go much further when they choose to,” he said. 

Johnson said on Friday that he suspects the draft guidelines were issued as “part of a ‘bait-and-switch’ strategy, under which Democratic leaders in Congress will suddenly bring up new legislation that they will claim codifies today’s NIH action, but which will in fact authorize further expansions involving the deliberate creation of human embryos for use in research, by human cloning and other methods.” 

NRLC laid out the evidence of the suspected “bait and switch” in a lengthy letter issued last month to members of Congress. (

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on Friday criticized the taxpayer funding of ESCr in general, and pointed out a potential loophole in the guidelines.

Despite the guidelines’ stated restrictions, said Perkins, “NIH clearly believes the President’s executive order allows them to fund such unethical research at any point in the future.

“The guidelines purport to have tight informed consent requirements, but they don’t even require IVF doctors and the stem cell researchers to work separately, thereby opening a gaping loophole for the researchers to increase embryo production for their research,” he said. 

Perkins called upon Capitol Hill lawmakers “to support Dickey-Wicker and focus funding on the proven science of adult stem cells.”

See related coverage:

U.S. Lawmakers Fight to Remove Law, Signed by Obama, against Federal Funding for Embryo Research


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