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For more information on religious opposition to stem cell research, please see our fact sheet on Religious Opposition Threatens Medical Research.

Religious Restrictions:
Medical Research 

Scientists conducting research utilizing embryonic stem cells have seen promising results that may lead to treatments for such diseases as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and juvenile diabetes.

But opposition from some powerful religious institutions is threatening the progress of medical science. Catholic Bishops and other conservative religious leaders are targeting the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research as a “pro-life issue.”

Reproductive rights and medical research:
Their shared opponents

Anti-choice organizations have taken their battle over reproductive rights well beyond opposition to abortion in recent years. For example, they have opposed the provision of emergency contraception (EC) to rape victims out of the mistaken belief (scientifically unproven) that EC might cause the destruction of a fertilized egg, or zygote. Many of these organizations also consider biogenetic advances such as embryonic stem cell research,  assisted reproductive technologies, genetic screening and the development of new vaccines using fetal tissue to be “pro life issues.” Their opposition is based on their determination to protect what they call “pre-born life,” which includes not only a fetus, but also a blastocyst or zygote.

Religious restrictions on patients’ rights
and new medical treatments

Because of the Catholic Bishops’ opposition to medical research using embryonic stem cells, it is likely that treatments derived from this research would be banned at more than 500 Catholic-affiliated hospitals in the United States. The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which govern care at Catholic hospitals, state (in Directive 66) that “Catholic health care institutions should not make use of human tissue obtained by direct abortions even for research or therapeutic purposes.”