Monday, August 3, 2009

Lifting the "Ban" -- Or Obfuscating the Truth? [Bob]

I know this is a little dated (March '09), but it hasn't been addressed on the blog directly so I'm bringing it up again.

Listen to this speech (the first 4 minutes should suffice) and then check out the timeline (below) of what really happened. The methodical deceit involved here is incredible to behold ...

If you pay attention to the news at all, you are probably convinced that stem cell research will eventually solve every medical challenge our society faces. The blind will see. The paralyzed will walk. Cancer will be cured. All this will be possible if the anti-science zealots in the pro-life wing of conservative politics would just get out of the way. President Obama repeats the mantra here.

George W. Bush in particular thwarted all advancement in scientific research because he placed his anti-scientific, Neanderthal faith ahead of the more reasonable desires of those who wanted to find cures. Thoughtful depictions like the one at right were offered to make the point. But there's just a minor problem with all this. It is complete nonsense

Over the last several weeks I have been doing some research on embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) for a project I'm involved in. Along the way I realized that some of the legal/political meanderings surrounding this issue have become so muddled that, for my own sake, I decided to put them in the form of a chronological chart just to make things easier to follow. Though these were all things I was vaguely aware of, seeing how the issue has played out was so stunning to behold so I thought I would share the facts here:
  • 1996 Congress passes, and President Clinton signs, a rider to an appropriations bill, titled the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which makes it illegal for the federal government to fund research that destroys human embryos. This rider has been re-approved by Congress and signed by the President in office every year since then.

  • 1998 President Clinton signs an Executive Order (EO) enforcing the ban on federal funding for ESCR that destroys human embryos. He bases his decision to do so on the restrictions created by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.
  • 2000 After six years of taking a position against taxpayer funding of the destructive research, and on his way out of office, President Clinton flip-flops and announces his support for new federal guidelines that would allow taxpayer funding of embryo-destructive research. This apparent set up for the incoming Gore administration backfires when Gore loses the election.
  • 2001 -- August 9th: President Bush signs an Executive Order meant to compromise on the restrictions that had previously been placed on ESCR. This order continues the restrictions put in place by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment but allows an exception for more than $200 million in federal funding for 21 existing stem cell “lines” that had previously been created (through IVF). Thus, President Bush becomes the first president to allow federal funding of ESCR.
At this point, federal funding for ESCR is restricted to these 21 lines.

It is not “banned.”

There is not, and there has never been, a ban on privately funded research.
  • 2007 -- June 20th: President Bush issues Executive Order 13435, which requires the government to fund research into alternative methods of obtaining pluripotent stem cells -- methods like Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSC) -- that do not require the destruction of embryos but instead "induce" regular adult skin cells to act like pluripotent cells.
  • 2008 “Scientific researchers hail the development of IPSCs as the biggest scientific breakthrough of the year.”
  • 2009 -- March 9th: President Obama rescinds Bush’s August 9, 2001 EO with his own EO entitled, “Removing Barriers To Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells.” The revocation of Bush’s EO is heralded as “lifting the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).” (this is the event found in the video offered above)

  • This EO simultaneously revokes Bush EO # 13435 which has provided federal funding of successful IPSC research. This aspect of the order is not mentioned at the press conference.
  • 2009 -- March 11th: President Obama signs and renews the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which continues the ban on federal funding for ESCR that Obama claims to have lifted 2 days earlier. No announcement is made and no press conference is called.
Whatever one’s politics, it is hard to deny the purposeful deceit and tactical shenanigans that have gone on with respect to ESCR. During his speech, Mr. Obama claimed to want to honor both the scientific promises of stem cell research and the ethical issues some hold toward the research. He did neither.

He refuses to ever acknowledge a difference between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research. The effects of his policies have been:
  • Creating cloned embryos with the purpose of letting the created person live is illegal and outlawed.
  • Creating cloned embryos for the purpose of tearing them apart for research purposes is approved.
  • Though he claims to have "lifted the ban of the last 8 years" (a direct shot at Bush), two days later he knowingly and quietly re-signs the amendment that overrides his own Executive Order.
  • He claims to approve of "promising research" yet touts the very kind of research that has led to exactly ZERO cures (ESCR) and actually undermines research with adult cells that has, up to this point, shown 73 successful therapies.
And, most importantly ...
  • He claims to seek compromise with those who have ethical reservations about ESCR but (again quietly and underhandedly) removes federal funding for IPSC that does exactly that -- and never mentions it.
All this to reiterate what has been said here before: When it comes to pro-life issues, President Obama's actions shout louder about his actual position than any of the words he speaks. Given the chance to seek true common ground on ESCR, he apparently has no intention of doing so -- though he doesn't have the courage to say so out loud.


  1. Do you have a source for Obama restoring the so-called ban? I can't seem to find anything on that.


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