Czech Catholic bishops protest against using of embryonic stem cells for research

The Czech Republic's Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday condemned legislation that would allow the use of embryonic stem cells for research purposes currently debated in the parliament.

"We express our serious worries over the currently debated draft concerning the use of human embryonic stem cells in research," the Czech Bishops' Conference said in a statement placed on its Web site Wednesday.

Last month, the lower chamber of the parliament agreed to discuss the legislation, sending the draft bill for a second reading, the AP reports.

If approved by both chambers of the Czech parliament and by the president, the bill would allow the use of embryonic stem cells for research purposes, but would ban cloning. Violations would be punishable by up to eight years in prison. In their statement, the bishops also called on all Czech citizens to closely watch "the work of their elected representatives ... and to remind them of their moral obligations."

Embryonic stem cells form during the early days after conception and can turn into any tissue in the body. Many scientists hope they could be used in the future to treat Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and other diseases.

The Czech Republic currently has no laws addressing the issue. A.M.

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