In August 2001, President Bush limited federal funding to what turned out to be just 21 embryonic stem cell lines and later twice vetoed bipartisan legislation to expand government funded stem cell research. Today, in a rebuke of Bush policy, President Obama lifted the Bush administration’s strict limits.
In response to Obama’s executive order, some conservatives — determined to carry on Bush’s legacy — falsely argued that lifting restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research would undermine more promising stem cell research:
- Karl Rove: “I hope it does not diminish the amount of money going into the non-embryonic stem cell research… What we have learned over the last seven or eight years is that there are many avenues, promising avenues to drive these stem cells that do not involve a troubling questions involved with the creation of human life for the purpose of destroying human life and harvesting the cells that were made by it.” [Fox News, 3/9/2008]
- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “I support biomedical research and I believe the administration would be far better served by directing taxpayer funds to research on non-embryonic stem cells, which is both effective and ethical.” [FirstRead, 3/9/2008]
- Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): “Non-embryonic stem cell research is not only showing great promise in the laboratory, but its applications are already being used to treat scores of diseases and medical conditions.” [FirstRead, 3/9/2008]
But as CAPAF senior fellow Jonathan Moreno explained during an interview with ThinkProgress, “embryonic stem cell research actually has made possible the advances in alternative forms of stem cells, including the so-called pluri-potent stem cells”:
Without these embryonic stem cell lines, the work that’s been done so far on pluri-potent stem cells wouldn’t have been possible….One of the problems is that people are putting this dividing line between embryonic stem cells and other cells. Biology doesn’t recognize those kinds of divisions. We really need to ask the question ‘what is going to work for this medical problem or what is going to work in developing this drug or what is going to work in answering this basic biological question?’ it needs to be driven by the questions they are asking and not about the sources of the cells.
Obama’s order gives incoming HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and yet-to-be-announced NIH director 120 days “to create a set of guidelines to govern the funding of research on embryonic and non-embryonic stem cells.” Federal officials are expected within weeks to “release a draft document that will be made available for public comment before being finalized.”