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Gingrich wants panel to look at in vitro clinics

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich called Sunday for a commission to study the ethical issues relating to in vitro fertilization clinics, where infertile women receive treatment to get pregnant and large numbers of embryos are created.

"If you have in vitro fertilization you are creating life. And therefore we should look seriously at what should the rules be for clinics that do that because they're creating life," said Gingrich, who opposes abortion and says life begins at conception.

Gingrich, who is campaigning for votes in Tuesday's Florida primary, did not expand on his proposal for a commission. His remarks seemed to open the possibility of a larger federal role over IVF clinics across the country than currently exists.

Standing outside the Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, where he had attended Sunday worship services, Gingrich also said he opposes the use of leftover embryos for stem cell research, which advocates say offers the hope of treatments or even cures for a variety of diseases.

The issue of stem cell research has become politically charged over the past decade, as scientific technique has advanced.

Former President George W. Bush, who opposed abortion rights, signed an executive order in 2001 that said federal funds could be used for stem cell research only on lines that were already in existence, which scientists subsequently said had been compromised.

President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights, jettisoned Bush's restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research after taking office.

In vitro fertilization involves creating an embryo outside a woman's body, then implanting it inside the womb. Excess embryos may be stored at the clinic, discarded, used for research or made available to other couples. A study nearly a decade ago estimated there were as many as 400,000 in existence.

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