Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the question of whether federal taxpayer dollars can be used lawfully to destroy human embryos in order to harvest their stem cells. The case challenged regulations of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that allow the destruction of living human embryos originally created for in vitro fertilization to harvest their stem cells for laboratory research.
The U.S. government has poured roughly $1 billion of our tax money into human embryonic stem cell research over the past 10 years, most of it during the past four years. The current White House has upped the incentives for the destruction of human embryos, all the while intentionally ignoring the plain meaning of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment — the federal law banning such research — effectively opening the door to destructive experimentation on human subjects.
The Dickey-Wicker Amendment has been passed by Congress every year since 1996. The key phrase says that no federal funds can be used for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” During the 1996 House floor debate, a sponsor affirmed the life-saving purpose of the law by saying:
“The supporters of the amendment claim that this funding will be used only to do experiments on ‘spare’ embryos that would be discarded anyway. We, as a Congress, have already addressed this question. In 1985, Congress was made aware of abuses in some NIH research programs. These programs were conducting risky experiments on unborn children who were scheduled for abortions. At that time we wisely enacted a law insisting that federally funded research should treat these children the same as children intended for live birth. This law protects human embryos in the womb at every stage and is still in effect today. There is no reason that it should not be extended to protect human embryonic children outside the womb.”