Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Bush administration continues to build up status of human embryos

The Bush administration has revamped the charter of the federal advisory committee that addresses the safety of research volunteers, stating for the first time that embryos in experiments are "human subjects" whose welfare should be considered along with that of fetuses, children and adults.

The addition of human embryos to the committee's charge -- completed at the beginning of October but not yet posted on the federal Web site that lists such committees -- marks the latest effort by the administration to bring the unborn under the umbrella of federal health protections. In September the administration enacted a new policy that extends certain health benefits to fetuses.

The new move does not mandate that embryos used in research be given the same protections as fetuses, children or adults. The committee can only offer recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services, which would then have to initiate rulemaking or encourage legislation if it wanted to put new protections in place.

But the wording marks a political victory for those in favor of increased protections for the unborn, experts inside and outside the government said. And depending on whom the administration selects to sit on the committee, it could be the start of a process that could result in greater restrictions on embryo research at some fertility clinics, universities and research labs, experts said.

Regarding the way this article was written: there's good news and bad news. The good news is that the term "unborn" is used - I suppose because the article refers to both embryos and fetuses and darn it, there's not another dehumanizing word they could use to cover both stages. The bad news is that the experts in opposition to the change are all associated with universities and such - directors of ethics and doctors and so on. Those cited in support are from National Right to Life and the USCC. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and they're doctors and lawyers, too. But the implication is clear: dispassionate researchers (as if) oppose; activists support.

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