Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama's Bad Science Bailout

Yesterday's Executive Order may not have surprised conservatives, but it certainly shocked the Left. Although most of the country expected President Obama to make good on his promise to reverse the federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell (ESC) research, the final order turned out to be far more extreme than ESC's biggest proponents had hoped. Most believed the President would maintain some semblance of restraint and allow experimentation only on those embryos discarded by fertility clinics. Unfortunately, no such limits exist. The President not only cracked ajar the door to ethically-challenged research, he flung it wide open--leaving the very scientists who demanded this money potentially in charge of its limitations.

Under the President's directive, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), unless Congress intervenes, will determine what, if any, boundaries there might be on how we obtain these embryos. With no clear policy from the White House, you and I could be footing the bill for research that clones embryos just to scavenge their parts.

If that's the case, our policy will condone the creation of life for the sole purpose of experimenting on it. Ronald M. Green, a Dartmouth College bioethicist, said, "There are lot of people on the left and the right sides of our political spectrum who are opposed to that--to create a life to destroy it."

President Obama justified the idea yesterday, saying, "As a person of faith, I believe we are called to... work to ease human suffering." But killing to cure doesn't make murder more acceptable, just like giving stolen goods to the church doesn't justify larceny. As Yuval Levin, the former executive director of President Bush's Council on Bioethics writes in today's Washington Post, "In science policy, science informs--but politics governs, and rightly so."

By shielding this research from any public or congressional scrutiny, the President may as well tear up his social contract with the American people. When we're talking about human life and taxpayer dollars, voters have a right to know who's going to monitor the scientists. The appetite for this research may be insatiable, but as Levin says, "[Science]... is no substitute for wisdom, prudence, or democracy."

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) disagrees. A longtime proponent of unethical research, DeGette urged Congress to make Obama's executive order permanent. "Congress must quickly pass complementary legislation so that no future anti-science administration will be able to hinder progress... Congress absolutely must not delay in codifying the directive to prevent science from being subject to the whim of politics." Here is the first of what we expect to be many fierce attacks on the Dickey-Wicker Amendment--the only policy remaining that protects taxpayers from directly funding the destruction of human embryos. Please help us keep this important barrier in place. Contact your Congressmen and urge them to support the Dickey-Wicker and the bipartisan Patients' First Act. Unlike President Obama's order, it promotes science that is not only ethical but effective.

Additional Resources FRC: Stem Cell Success Stories

Family Research Council:
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