In advance of an expected U.S. House of Representatives vote next week on legislation that will allow federal funding for some embryonic stem cell research, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization representing nearly 1,000 synagogues, has written to House members in support of the legislation. The Union letter is in support of H.R. 810, sponsored by Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Col.) and 200 other sponsors. HR810 will allow public funds to support stem cell research on cells derived from embryos donated to IVF clinics which are in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking IVF treatment, and with the prior consultation with and consent of the donors.
Signed by the Union’s executive vice president, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, and director of public policy, Nathan J. Diament, the letter states, in pertinent part:
The Jewish tradition places great value upon human life and its preservation. The Torah commands us to treat and cure the ill and to defeat disease wherever possible; to do this is to be the Creator’s partner in safeguarding the created. The traditional Jewish perspective thus emphasizes that the potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life. Moreover, the traditional Jewish perspective does not accord an embryo outside of the womb the full status of humanhood and its attendant protections. Thus, stem cell research may be consistent with and serve these moral and noble goals; however, such research must not be pursued indiscriminately.
H.R. 810 strikes this careful balance. By insisting that publicly funded stem cell research be conducted on cells derived from embryos donated to IVF clinics and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking IVF treatment, and by requiring the prior consultation with and consent of the donors, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act serves to value and venerate the sanctity of life and our responsibilities to our fellow man and woman.