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25 March 2009 — Vol. 11/No. 09
At a time when highly significant—even historic—breakthroughs in adult stem cell research have become almost daily occurrences and almost to the point of being mundane, President Obama has chosen to turn back the clock, and starting today, will force taxpayers to subsidize the unethical over the ethical, the unworkable over what works, and hype and hyperbole over hope.
Human embryo destroying stem cell research is not only unethical, unworkable, and unreliable, it is now demonstrably unnecessary.
–Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ), March 9, 2009
This speech, at which were present so-called “snowflake babies” (former frozen embryos, implanted and carried to term), was made in response to President Obama’s March 9th executive order, which sweepingly legalized embryonic stem-cell research in an attempt to remove “limitations on scientific inquiry.”
“Rather than furthering discovery,” said Obama in his March 9th statement immediately preceding the signing of the order, “our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering.”
While most pro-lifers are vigorously opposed to embryonic stem-cell research, many have difficulty defending their stance because of supposed medical advances which the research has made possible. Many would be surprised to learn that any and all medical breakthroughs made regarding stem cells have been made without using embryos. Work with these cells has produced promising research and may lead to dramatic cures of all manner of diseases. As Michaela Kingston writes, in an article entitled “Pardon Me, Your Ideology is Showing”:
ESCs may have the potential to cure many diseases. But after ten years and billions of dollars, they still have not realised their potential. In the meantime, stem cells isolated from adults have proven to be quite effective in relieving human suffering. Even better, if you’re on the ESC bandwagon, are “induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells”, which behave almost exactly like ESCs but do not involve embryo destruction. These iPS cells do not involve costly embryo manipulation and can be made from a patient’s own cells, avoiding immune rejection.
So, in other words, Obama has not only signed off on a procedure which would be morally unacceptable no matter what its scientific advantages, he has done so in the face of all medical and scientific evidence. In addition to this, Obama also rescinded Bush’s Executive Order 13435, which poured funding into research involving adult stem cells. In short, Obama has effectively worked to kill adult stem cell research (i.e., the only stem cell research that has produced results) to pour money into a dead-end, highly controversial research instead.
The president’s supposed desire to “work to ease human suffering” rings hollow when it is clear that the procedures he espouses have proven scientifically fruitless. In addition to this, morally concerned scientists have not only identified the moral hazard, but they have even offered a workable solution.
But it is to no avail.
Obama’s ideological bone-tossing apparently extends to forced abortion, as well. The FY2009 Omnibus Bill, signed into law by the president on March 11th, contains a loophole that allows funding to go the UNFPA, regardless of whether or not they are involved in forced abortion or sterilization. The Reagan-era Kemp-Kasten amendment, clearly dictates that American tax dollars cannot be used to fund coercive abortion or sterilization overseas. Even when House pro-lifers proposed an amendment that would essentially force the UNFPA to be regulated under Kemp-Kasten like everyone else, it was overturned.
The message that this sends is very clear: Obama wants his programs funded, regardless of the costs. He is perfectly willing to cut a swathe through both legal and moral concerns to achieve this goal. However, not only is he willing to cast aside concerns, he is even willing to disregard the basic cold logic of the matter, the logic upon which delicate, bi-partisan agreements are made.
This logic dictates that, while we may not agree on abortion, we agree that women should never be forced to have abortions; that, shelving the moral controversies, embryonic stem cell research is a sterile science and should be abandoned in favor of more productive investigations. This logic dictates that Americans are split on the subject of abortion, and it is thus irresponsible to use their tax dollars equally to fund something that so many of them find morally repugnant.
In the words of Kingston, far from promoting “responsiblility,” Obama has only paved the way for “pressure on scientists from media hype, special interest groups, lobbyists and a poorly informed but well-meaning public to pursue dead-end research.”
Simply speaking, Obama really is willing to turn back the clock—to turn it back to a time when the people had little say in government, and when government took little interest in the scientific or moral conundrums placed before it.
God save us from “change” like this.
Colin Mason is the Director of Media Production at PRI.