Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies

By Annette Burfoot | Go to book overview

fifty-nine
Legislation--
The United States

ANNE DONCHIN

The United States has lagged notably behind most countries in governmental regulation of new reproductive techniques. Yet congressional interest has been evident since Congress established the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research in 1974, the year the first request came to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund research on embryos. Because the commission limited its scope to fetuses after implantation and took embryo research to be "difficult and divisive," it recommended establishment of the Ethics Advisory Board (EAB) to review specific funding proposals. This recommendation was adopted as a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regulation stipulating prior EAB review and approval before federal funding of any in vitro fertilization (IVF) proposal. The board convened in 1978, and though it was designed to be a standing body, the DHHS disbanded it in 1980 and so violated its own regulation. The board survived just long enough to issue its first report in 1979 and approve one research protocol before a new federal administration came to office under Ronald Reagan, who was committed to the view that human life begins at conception and opposed to any practice remotely viewed as threatening to prenatal life. In 1988 the DHHS announced plans to revive the board, but the Bush administration declined to sign the revised charter.

Other congressional attempts to create bodies to regulate reproductive research fared no better. The Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee, ere-

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