The European Parliament has held a meeting at which calls to stop EU funding of human embryo research, including embryo stem cell research, were heard.
The meeting was held as a result of the ‘One of Us’ citizen’s initiative which gathered 1.7 million signatures from around Europe, including Ireland, protesting against embryo research. The initiative also wantsdevelopment aid to be withdrawn from organisations promoting abortion.
‘One of Us’ was one of the first successful petitions submitted under the European Citizen’s Initiative, which was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It allows any group that can gather at least one million signatures from citizens of at least a quarter of the EU’s member states to request the European Commission to initiate a legislative proposal (the same power that the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers hold).
According to European Dignity Watch, attempts were made in advance of the European Parliament hearing to minimize the amount of time the organizers of the ‘One of Us’ initiative would have to speak, with one MEP who had earlier described ‘One of Us’ as “a bunch of religious extremists” set to have three speaking slots.
However, after a letter to the President of the Parliament the hearing went ahead as originally scheduled.
After presentations from Sophia Kuby of European Dignity Watch and Dr Fillippo Vari, there was a robust question and answer session with MEPs. The initiative received considerable support, particularly from the centre-right European People’s Party, as well as criticism from mostly left-wing MEPs.
The Commission has until May 28th to decide on the ‘One of Us’ intiative, and must justify their decision in writing.
Commenting on the hearings Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign said:
"Pro-life groups are among the strongest advocates of stem cell research. What we oppose is research that destroys human life at its earliest stages."
"The fact is that we have seen huge advances in non-controversial adult stem cell research. All of the major medical breakthroughs in recent years have been in the area of ethically-sound research yet much of the hype has centred around embryonic stem cell research which destroys human life and has resulted in no significant medical or scientific advances."
And she added:
"It is not just pro-life groups who are saying this. Companies like the US-based Geron Corporation which invested millions of dollars in destructive embryonic stem cell research programmes discontinued the research in 2011 because it was yielding no results."
"The hearings today also help to bring some ethical focus to this debate. We must not destroy life to prolong life. Rather we must strive for cures we can all live with."