In President Bush’s latest attempt to hinder the progress of stem cell research in the US, the Bush administration plans to spend $1 million on public awareness campaigns that promote the “adoption” of embryos to infertile couples. With backing from Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services will launch a grant program for organizations to advocate the donation of embryos to infertile couples – keeping the embryos from being used for research purposes or discarded. Tens of thousands of embryos are currently frozen in fertility clinics, left over from in vitro fertilization procedures, in which an egg is fertilized in the lab and then implanted into a woman’s uterus. Typically, couples fertilize about a dozen eggs in order to have enough healthy embryos to produce children.
The Feminist Majority and other abortion rights advocates believe that the Administration’s choice of the word “adoption” for embryos could be used to lay the groundwork for the overhaul of abortion rights. “If an embryo were a person with equal rights, abortion could be more easily declared illegal,” Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League told the Associated Press. “It can be used to support their effort to roll back Roe vs. Wade.”
Despite evidence from the National Institutes of Health and others that stem cells, which are extracted from embryos, could provide vital tools in the fight against several major illnesses, Bush and the religious right continue to oppose research on theological grounds. Last year, Bush announced plans to severely restrict federal funding of stem cell research. However, these efforts have not gained the necessary support from Congress.