Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama, Again, Chooses Death for the Unborn

President Obama's executive order on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research went farther than he admitted publicly -- he also rescinded the Bush federal funding of the most promising stem cell research alternatives to killing embryos.

-- From "Failing the Stem-Cell Test" editorial at National Review 3/10/09

[Yesterday], Obama eliminated the Bush [embryonic stem cell] policy and then took the unusual and provocative step of also rescinding Bush’s 2007 executive order [13435] providing support for alternative sources of stem cells — an order that in no way limited embryonic stem-cell research and need not have been retracted. Having lifted these restrictions, Obama put no rules or boundaries of any kind in their place, instructing the scientists at the National Institutes of Health to do so on his behalf over the next few months. Obama’s executive order makes no mention of any moral qualm about the destruction of human embryos — whether left over from fertility treatments or created especially for experimentation, including human embryos created by cloning.

The last time NIH scientists were tasked with developing rules for embryo research, in 1994, they returned with proposals so permissive that Bill Clinton felt compelled to reject them. There is no reason to think the NIH will be any more circumspect this time, but President Obama unfortunately has given us considerable reason to think he will not reject even the broadest possible mandate for the exploitation of nascent human lives. With this week’s executive order, Obama has not so much staked out a position in the embryo debate as dismissed the debate itself as unnecessary.

The embryo debate is among the first real tests of our commitment to the equal protection of every human life in the age of biotechnology. The quandaries of this age will only grow more vexing and complicated. But scientific advances in recent years — especially the development of alternative sources of embryonic-like cells that do not necessitate the destruction of human organisms — appear to offer us a way around the test.

President Obama has turned his back on those advances. He has needlessly and clumsily forced a choice between the promise of progress and the respect for life, and has gone out of his way to ensure that we fail the moral test put before us. Let us hope this failure proves reversible in time and does not set the tone for science policy in the years to come.

To read the entire editorial, CLICK HERE.

Mark Hoofnagle, an advocate for destroying embryos for research, who has a PhD in physiology from the University of Virginia, writes the following concerning Obama's executive order:

As someone who works with stem cells I find this largely an empty, symbolic act . . .

What a lot of people don't realize is that in 2006 a revolutionary result was discovered by Japanese scientists led by Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University . . . induced Pluripotent Stem Cells or iPSC . . . the ability to reprogram the cells of any individual to a totipotent state - one in which the cells may make any cell-type or tissue in the human body.

So why does it matter that Obama has reversed [the Bush] policy?

Not only are [embryonic stem] cells inferior compared to iPSC for human therapies . . . [embryonic stem] cells will largely be supplanted by iPSC . . .

Ethicist Wesley J. Smith writes on this as well