Some anti-abortion religious leaders are welcoming new draft guidelines from the National Institutes of Health on embryonic stem cell research as a balanced approach to the controversial procedure.
The guidelines, issued April 17, permit federally funded research on stem cells derived from embryos that are no longer needed for fertility treatments.
Most embryos that are not planned to be used in fertility treatments are discarded or kept in a type of frozen limbo. The draft guidelines presumably would not allow federal funds to be used to create embryos solely for research purposes.
"They have hit the right balance by limiting funding to particular slated-to-be-destroyed IVF cells, yet expanding significantly the number of diseases that can be addressed by increasing the number and range of stem cell lines from which we can learn," said Joel Hunter, pastor of an Orlando-area megachurch. "These guidelines respect life from beginning to end."
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said "the new regulations embody caution and care that respect pro-life values."
The Catholic Church opposes embryonic stem cell research, but Stephen Schneck, director of The Catholic University's Life Cycle Institute, called the draft rules "a major step toward the common ground most Americans are now demanding."
Former Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page, in a Friday statement, said the decision is not the one conservative Christians wanted most – a total ban on stem cell research – but is better than it could have been.
"While Dr. Page would wish for a ban on all embryonic stem cell research that results from the destruction of any human embryos (which he refers to as unborn babies), he is somewhat heartened by the fact that the White House has issued forth regulations which prohibit any stem cell research which would come from embryos created for research," the statement reads.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins continued his criticism of the funding of any research of embryonic stem cells.
"The research that President Obama supports is not sound science and will destroy human life," Perkins said Friday. "...(T)he guidelines implement a plan that will force taxpayers to foot the bill for research that involves human embryo destruction."
The draft guidelines followed a March 9 executive order by President Obama to rescind the Bush administration's 2001 limits on federally funded stem cell research. The NIH expects to issue final guidelines by July after a period of public comment.