Church Weighs In as Uruguay Debates Stem Cells

Bioethicists Try to Educate Legislators

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, JULY 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- As Uruguayan Parliament considers going forward with embryonic stem cell research, the bishops of that nation are reiterating that an embryo is a human being with rights.



In a statement published Monday, the Pastoral Institute of Bioethics of the Archdiocese of Montevideo weighed in on a bill that was proposed last year and stands to be approved within the next two months.

The bill was authored by the Uruguayan National Institute of Donations and Transplants and recently modified by the Ministry of Public Health. Last week, the Senate approved the measure and the Chamber of Deputies will vote on it Sept. 15.

Meanwhile, Church officials are seeking to inform the senators and deputies of the true implications of the bill. The communiqué from the archdiocese recalls that "in dealing with an embryo we are dealing with a human life." The statement explained that the Church offers its full support to stem cell research, but only that which does not imply the destruction of human persons (which incidentally is the only research that has given concrete medical fruits).

The statement went on to note that scientifically, "there is no doubt that the human embryo is an individual of the human species, a human being."

Since research on embryonic stem cells requires the killing of the embryo, this bill "violates the first of human rights: the right to life," the statement affirmed.

"The end doesn't justify the means," the communiqué added. And it expressed confidence that "careful reflection on these ethical considerations will move legislators to rectify the bill during its upcoming debate in the House of Representatives."

Uruguay has recently moved toward measures in violation of the right to life, however its current president, Tabaré Vázquez, is a medical doctor who has affirmed the dignity of the unborn. Last November, he vetoed a measure to allow first-trimester abortions, which would have made Uruguay the most abortion-permissive country in South America. His term ends this October.