Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

NIH Funds Put under Microscope Clinton Orders Limit on Embryo Research

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

NIH Funds Put under Microscope Clinton Orders Limit on Embryo Research

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton ordered the National Institutes of Health on Friday not to spend federal funds to create human embryos for test-tube research. But the White House subsequently said he did not mean to foreclose government support of research on early embryos created as a byproduct of infertility treatments.

Clinton issued his directive hours after a federal advisory panel urged NIH Director Harold Varmus to use the agency's funds for certain kinds of human embryo research under controlled conditions, ending a 15-year funding freeze.

The panel's recommendations, which were anticipated since a draft report leaked in August, have generated protest from critics of human embryo research - mostly anti-abortion groups.

Clinton did not specifically forbid federal financial support for research on human embryos that originate from in vitro fertilization - the so-called test-tube baby technique. His order was far less sweeping than restrictions imposed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary, said Clinton's statement "should be interpreted very narrowly." In his statement, Clinton said that research on fertilized human eggs "raises profound ethical and moral questions, as well as issues concerning the appropriate allocation of federal funds."

The report of the NIH's human embryo committee said the research had the potential of finding new ways to correct infertility, to improve methods of avoiding or correcting birth defects, and to learn fundamental cell biology that might lend itself to combating cancer. After studying the issue for nine months, the committee delivered its recommendations this week to another panel that advises Varmus.

That panel endorsed the recommendations, leaving the final decision up to Varmus on if, when and how the institutes would proceed with research grants - until Clinton took it out of Varmus' hands.

Clinton praised the work of the committees and said he understood how the research could make advances in in vitro fertilization. He also said he planned to establish a bioethics advisory commission to further deliberate such issues. …

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