Mar 10, 2009

President of 'Hope' Gives Patients Anything But


Family Research Council – update March 9, 2008


For eight years, President George Bush proudly displayed in the Oval Office a bust of Sir Winston Churchill on loan from Great Britain. As a gesture of goodwill, the British government offered to let President Obama keep the statue during his term as a symbol of our longstanding friendship. Obama declined, shipping the bust back to England--and with it, the reminder of Churchill's great wisdom. It was he who warned that if evil prevails "all that we have known and cared for will sink into a new Dark Age, made more sinister...by the lights of perverted science."

Today, that "perverted science" took root in America in a powerful new way, as President Obama tore down the wall between the federal government and embryonic stem cell experiments. By executive order, he took the first step in overturning the restrictions on taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research. His decision will allow government agencies to use federal money to encourage experiments on innocent human life, abolishing a ban that Bush put in place in 2001.

Supporters of the decision are quick to point out that Americans won't be financing the death of embryos. Although we may not be funding the killing, we are funding the killers. For now, the one law that prevents Obama from using taxpayer dollars to fund the destruction of embryos directly is still in place. The Dickey-Wicker amendment, approved by Congress every year since 1996, bans the use of federal funds to create human embryos. Unfortunately, even that safeguard could be in jeopardy under the liberal majority. As with the other pro-life riders, Dickey-Wicker must survive the appropriations process--a feat that could now be monumentally more difficult.

Obama's decision puts the government in a business which is not only unethical but also medically unnecessary. As recently as last week, researchers announced that they had successfully turned ethically created cells into the neurons that break down in Parkinson's disease. The week before, scientists produced evidence that they had treated Parkinson's in a patient with his own adult stem cells. Almost daily, researchers are celebrating new breakthroughs without compromising a single human life. Over 70 diseases and conditions have already been treated through adult stem cells, helping patients overcome everything from juvenile diabetes to heart disease. There is a common misconception that ESC research hasn't yielded these same results because it's not legal. It is. Only federal funding has been restricted. Private, commercial, and even state ESC experiments continue to no avail. That's why the ESC community is so desperate for federal funding. Many of the private ESC financiers see the method as an expensive failure. Even Dr. James Thomson, who first grew human ESC in 1998, has pulled his resources from embryos and invested in induced pluripotent (or iPS) cells, because, apart from the satisfying the moral dilemma, these cells are easier and cheaper to reproduce.

While the Obama administration and its supporters claim to be on the cutting-edge of science, the new President is pursing old technology. And thanks to the latest stimulus package, he will have at least $8 billion to do so. In a clever political move, Obama put the money in place at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the second "bailout," then moved ahead with rescinding Bush's restrictions. As he stated today, it will be up to NIH to decide in the next 120 days on the guidelines for ESC research.

Of course, scientists will lobby to obtain the money without strings or congressional oversight. According to the White House, their wish may be granted in the form of a presidential memo which Obama released today that seeks to insulate scientists from political accountability. In instances like this one, a lack of transparency is unacceptable, particularly when taxpayers are footing the bill. Harold Varmus, who co-chairs the President's Council on Science and Technology, defended the idea. "This is consistent with the President's determination to use sound scientific practice... instead of dogma in developing federal policy." Is it dogma or discipline? I guess that depends on your worldview. Are they restrictions or protections? Research or experiments? In this brave new world of commodifying human life, we should all be grateful for moral restraints. Please contact your leaders and urge them to uphold the ones that still exist. Urge them to right Obama's wrong by voting for the Patients' First Act. Instead of asking taxpayers to fund the destruction of life, this bipartisan bill would promote stem cell research that is making progress on principle.



Additional Resources FRC: Adult Stem Cell Success Stories

 
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