March 9, 2009
Opinion: Stem-Cell Ideology
Bush-era compromise removed in the name of "science."
Today President Obama is expected to lift the existing ban on federal funding for research using new lines of stem cells taken from human embryos. Here's how CBS and the AP introduced the news:
President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order and memo Monday in an East Room ceremony that will end a divisive policy decision by his predecessor, while sending a clear signal that science - not political ideology - will guide his administration.
So much for objectivity. Actually, President Bush announced the ban in 2001 as a compromise position so that researchers could continue using existing stem cell lines (from which the embryos had already been destroyed), while prohibiting taxpayer money from paying for research that destroys human embryos. In the eight years since the ban was announced, research on human embryos has remained fully legal if funded privately.
It has not been very productive, however. While dozens of treatments using adult stem cells (from which no embryos are destroyed) have been produced for conditions ranging from Parkinson's to autoimmune disorders, the results of research using human embryos have been scarce at best--and sometimes downright scary.
Further, with new research showing that pluripotent cells can be produced from adult stem cell lines, the supposed scientific necessity to destroy human embryos to advance research would seem to be removed. And yet President Bush's compromise is deemed anti-science as all funding restrictions are swept aside (pending the institution of some ethics guidelines), forcing taxpayers to pay for research that many find deeply morally objectionable.
Just who is being ideological, anyway?