US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called for a commission to investigate the ethical issues around IVF. He also wants a ban on human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research, including research on donated embryos left over from IVF.
'I believe life begins at conception, and the question I was raising was what happens to embryos in fertility clinics[...] I would favour a commission to look seriously at the ethics of how we manage fertility clinics', Gingrich told an audience outside a Baptist church in Florida.
Gingrich, a former speaker in the US House of Representatives, is attempting to appeal to the conservative audience by changing his stance on human ES cell research. He has a long history of politically supporting scientific research, including human ES cell research in 2001.
He now questions the ethics behind IVF and the management of embryos in clinics. Gingrich did not expand on his comments, but they indicate support for a greater role of the federal government in regulating IVF. Federal legislation currently only requires fertility clinics to document rates of success.
Referring to human ES cell research as 'the use of science to desensitise society over the killing of babies', Gingrich is taking a strong stance on the issue. 'If you have IVF, you are creating life; therefore, we should look seriously at what the rules should be for clinics that are doing that, because they are creating life', he said.
Stem cell research has been a key political battleground in the USA over the past decade. Former president, George Bush, restricted funding for new human ES cell research in 2001 to the 21 cell lines that were already being used for research. President Barack Obama approved federal funding for new cell lines when he came into office but the decision is currently being challenged in the courts.