DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     February 26-28, 1999     vol. 10, no. 40

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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CLINTON ADMINISTRATION TO PROCEED WITH STEM CELL RESEARCH WHILE IN VENEZUELA CATHOLIC CHURCH CLASHES WITH NEW VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT OVER STERILIZATION

          WASHINGTON, DC (CWNews.com) - The Clinton administration's secretary of health and human services on Tuesday rebuffed a letter from pro-life congressmen that said continued research using human stem cells would violate a federal ban.

          HHS Secretary Donna Shalala said she believes federal permits the study of human stem cells even though they were obtained from aborted unborn children. "The law allows stem cell research," Shalala told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees HHS spending. "We intend to move forward in a careful, deliberative process."

          The letter by 70 pro-life congressmen said that current federal law bans government-funded research in which human embryos are created or killed. Stem cells -- basic cellular building blocks which can develop into any human organ -- are harvested from human embryos which are then destroyed. In January, the head of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Harold Varmus, declared that the ban did not apply to stem cells culture from laboratory specimens.

          Shalala said her interpretation of the bans means that it only applies to research in which embryos are destroyed, "not to research preceding or following such research projects." The letter from Congress had contended that the ban applied to any research "which follows on or depends upon the destruction of or injury to a human embryo."

          Meanwhile in Caracas, Venezuela Bishop Hernan Sanchez, Secretary General of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, announced that the Catholic Church will fight against the plan of massive sterilizations announced by the government.

          Earlier this week, President Hugo Chavez announced the "Bolivar 2000" plan -- in honor of Venezuelan liberator Simon Bolivar -- a national mobilization campaign to fight poverty. "Bolivar 2000" will mobilize all military forces and state officials to improve food production and distribution, health attention, and the renewal of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and electric lines.

          The Catholic Church initially supported the project, until the director of maternity services in Caracas, Dr. Carlos Cabrera, announced that the new "improved" health services to low-income mothers will include sterilization as a policy. Cabrera said, "President Chavez has decided to offer sterilization as part of the basic services that will be provided starting February 27."

          Bishop Sanchez said, "Any mutilation, when not prescribed for a vital therapeutic reason, is immoral, and even more when it is officially promoted by the government." The bishop recalled that Chavez proclaimed himself "a Catholic and pro-life" during his installation ceremony and said that "each official birth control campaign aimed at the poor always creates more injustice and violates the human rights of the defenseless."


Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

February 26-28, 1999       volume 10, no. 40
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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