Blog Post

Obama Gives Taxpayer Money to Embryonic Stem Cell Research

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer President Barack Obama is expected to announce today that he will rescind the prohibition on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research put in place by President George W. Bush in 2001,  thereby forcing taxpayers to fund the destruction of human embryonic life. The lifting of the prohibition will allow scientists who have been relying on private donations to conduct this type of research will now be able to apply for tax-payer funded grants through the National Institutes for Health (NIH). In anticipation of the change, the NIH has already begun to write guidelines that are expected to demand that the cells being used are derived with proper informed consent from the woman or couple who donated the original embryo. "The president believes that it's particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals," Melody C. Barnes, director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council, told reporters during a telephone briefing yesterday. The Obama administration sees the decision by President George W. Bush to restrict funding for embryonic stem cell research as part of a pattern of allowing political ideology to influence scientific decisions across an array of issues, including climate change and whether to approve the morning-after pill Plan B for over-the-counter sales. "We view what happened with stem cell research in the last administration as one manifestation of failure to think carefully about how federal support of science and the use of scientific advice occurs," said Harold Varmus, who co-chairs Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. "This is consistent with the president's determination to use sound scientific practice, responsible practice of science and evidence, instead of dogma in developing federal policy."   Opponents see things differently and are calling the move “divisive” because it forces people to fund research that they consider to be unconscionable. They are also accusing the government of wasting precious taxpayer funds on research that has become obsolete in the wake of other scientific advances in stem cell technology in the last few years. For instance, in 2006, a breakthrough in stem cell research occurred when scientists developed iPS (induced pluripotent stem cells) cells, which are adult skin cells that have been reprogrammed into stem cells and appear to offer all the benefits of embryonic stem cells but without the ethical drawbacks. These and other advances in human cord blood cells caused the scientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep, Sir Ian Wilmut, to announce in 2007 that he saw no further need for cloning human embryos to develop patient specific therapies. “(H)e is convinced that this new work overcomes key practical and ethical issues in obtaining embryo cells that [are] potentially capable of generating all cell types for treating disease,” said the Daily Telegraph of London.  Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President & CEO of Americans United for Life agrees. “Embryonic stem cell research is the research of the past.  Millions of dollars have been spent on embryonic stem cell research and it has failed.  To pour more money into it is simply a waste.” Dr. Yoest continued, “Even more, this research destroys lives at the very earliest stage of development.  Adult stem cell research is helping people now.  If we’re going to put tax dollars into research -- particularly at a time of unprecedented federal deficits -- it needs to be research that protects life and helps patients now.” The Vatican has been one of the most outspoken critics of the change. Last November, when then President-elect Obama announced his intention to lift the ban, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos "serve no purpose.” Cardinal Barragan pointed out that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was "good for nothing.” By contrast, he cited the many advances made with adult stem cells and umbliical cord stem cells that have already been used to successfully treat more than 70 serious conditions.   Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, criticized the president for once again “leaking” plans to divert taxpayer funds to his anti-life agenda on a Friday night, which is considered to be a “slow news night” when the public attention is largely diverted by the upcoming weekend. "It must be Friday night because word leaks of yet another deadly executive order by President Obama. Friday night orders include rescinding the Mexico City Policy, eroding conscience protections for health care providers and now word of green-lighting funding for experiments that encourage human embryo destruction,” Perkins said.   "We should be increasing funding for adult stem cell treatments, which have been used to treat patients for over 70 diseases and conditions, and we should fund the historic achievements in reprogramming ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells without compromising ethics by destroying life. "I urge President Obama to direct funding not only to the best science, but also to the surest common ground -- research using adult stem cells and stem cells created by reprogramming." © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.