Forty-one members of Congress sent a letter Monday to President Donald Trump asking him to replace the head of the National Institutes of Health, citing the current director’s support of embryonic stem cell research.

The lawmakers, all Republicans, said the priorities of Dr. Francis Collins, appointed as NIH director in 2009 by President Barack Obama, do not align with Trump’s.

“While we deeply respect Dr. Collins’ Christian faith and commitment to public service, the stances that Dr. Collins has taken in the past, regarding embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, are not life-affirming and directly conflict with the pro-life direction of your new presidency,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and his 40 colleagues wrote in the letter.

NIH is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. In January, Trump asked Collins to stay on as director, Science magazine reported.

Banks, whose name led the 41 signatures, told The Daily Signal in an interview Tuesday that he is heartened by Trump’s pro-life leadership so far.

“I give the president a great deal of credit for already fulfilling his campaign commitments to support the right to life in his few months in office,” Banks said, adding:

We’ve seen that from his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, we’ve seen that in … the [reinstating of the] Mexico City policy, we’ve seen this president come through on his commitment that he made to pro-life voters during the election cycle, and I appreciate that as a pro-life representative myself.

Collins, a physician and geneticist, was a leader of the international Human Genome Project as director of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993-2008. He previously was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Michigan.

The signers of the letter cite two main concerns over Collins’ leadership of the government’s prestigious biomedical research center, one being his support for an embryonic stem cell registry that includes “stem cells harvested through the destruction of human embryos.”

Their other concern is Collins’ support for somatic cell nuclear transfer, commonly known as cloning.

In a 2006 interview with the Public Broadcasting Service, Collins said he did not see any concerns with the process, which opponents say destroys human embryos.

“That is very different, in my mind, morally, than the union of sperm and egg,” Collins said in that interview, adding:

We do not in nature see somatic cell nuclear transfer occurring, this is a purely man-made event. And yet somehow, we have attached to the product of that kind of activity the same moral status as the union of sperm and egg.  

According to a 2016 report from the House Energy and Commerce Select Investigative Panel, NIH had “awarded 329 grants using human fetal tissue” from 2010 through 2014.

The lawmakers also cite concern that “NIH funding levels for human embryonic stem cell research have increased from $146 million in FY 2012 to $180 million in FY 2015,” according to NIH’s estimates.

They write to Trump:

We believe the American people deserve a leader at this agency who is your appointment, whose principles align with your pro-life values and your new administration’s policy goals.

An NIH spokeswoman, asked for a response by The Daily Signal, said the agency could not comment on a letter from members of Congress to the president.

In December, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.; and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., sent a letter to Trump supporting Collins’ staying at NIH.

The letter, The Hill reported, cited “his distinguished scientific experience, effective leadership skills, and longstanding relationships with members of Congress, researchers, and advocates.”

David A. Prentice, vice president and research director at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an organization that seeks to educate society on the importance of protecting life, praised the 41 House Republicans’ request that Trump replace Collins.

“We are very heartened to see Rep. Jim Banks and so many members of Congress express their concern to President Trump that we urgently need a new NIH director, one who is pro-life and will maintain the president’s pro-life agenda,” Prentice told The Daily Signal in an email.

NIH, Prentice said, “sets much of the research agenda related to life and medicine, and funds a significant amount of research,” adding:

It needs solid guidance to focus on ethical research that will put the patient first and value all human life, so it desperately needs a leader who is pro-life.

Banks said he is hopeful that Trump will act.

“It is my hope that President Trump once again will follow through on his commitment to the right to life by appointing a new director at the NIH who shares our pro-life views,” Banks said.