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Stem cell research restrictions, & their reversal

Obama's overturn of Bush's
research restrictions: 200

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Changing of the guard in 2009:

During his presidential campaign, President Obama repeatedly indicated his support for embryonic stem cell research. He said:

"I strongly support expanding research on stem cells. I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations." 1

During the presidential campaign in mid-2008. the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted a public opinion poll of American adults on the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. They found no consensus. The percentages who favored research were:

bullet 68% of persons with no religious affiliation.
bullet 59% of white, non-Hispanic Catholics.
bullet 58% of white mainline Protestants.
bullet 40% of black Protestants.
bullet 31% of white evangelical Protestants. 7

Word leaked out on 2009-MAR-06 that President Obama would sign an executive order on MAR-09 that would reverse President Bush's restrictions of 2001 .

The Associated Press commented:

"Once the change is in place, scientists will be able to start applying for taxpayer-funded grants through the National Institutes of Health."

"The [National Institutes of Health] NIH already has begun writing guidelines that, among other things, are expected to demand that the cells being used were derived with proper informed consent from the woman or couple who donated the original embryo." 1

The National Institutes of Health have been granted $10 billion from the economic stimulus package. Part of it is expected to fund embryonic stem cell research.

Bernadette Tansey of the San Francisco notes that the expected overturn of the Bush policy:

"... may quickly lower the cost of research. Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Institute for Regeneration Medicine at UCSF, is watching a new building rise where his institute will expand its stem cell studies."

"Under the Bush policy, researchers had to painstakingly separate their NIH-funded projects from human embryonic stem cell work funded by other sources. If Obama removes the NIH limits, work in the new UCSF building will be much cheaper because scientists will no longer have to create duplicate labs and buy extra sets of equipment. The same labs and tools will be available for use on adult stem cells, the partially mature cells that replenish organs, and the more versatile embryonic stem cells that are seen as the standard for understanding the entire field of cell therapy."

" 'Labs all over the country could start using these cells side by side,' Kriegstein said. 'A lot of resources were spent complying with the restrictions as they exist'." 2

President Obama signs executive order::

On 2009-MAR-09, the president reversed and repudiated restrictions on embryonic stem cells that had been placed by George W. Bush. Surrounded by medical scientists, he said: "By doing this, we will ensure America's continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs."

He also said:

"We will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. ... We will also vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield. ..."

"When it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values."

"As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research -- and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."

"We will never undertake this research lightly. We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse." 3

He also said:

"It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda ? and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." 4

and that government policy is designed so that it :

"never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. [Such cloning] is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society or any society." 4

Aides indicated that the National Institutes of Health would be asked to come up with guidelines concerning stem cell research within 120 days.

Obama also signed a presidential memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for "restoring scientific integrity to government decision making." 3

Reintroduction of stem cell bill in Congress:

Senators Tom Harkin, (D-IA) and Arlen Specter, a (R-PA) reintroduced the bill that President Bush had vetoed in 2007. It is S. 487: "A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research." It is a.k.a. "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2009." The bill would allow federal funding for research using stem cells taken from human embryos that are left over from fertility treatments. 5 The bill has been read twice in the senate and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Before cells can be eligible for use in research conducted or supported by the government, the bill would require that:

bullet "The stem cells were derived from human embryos that have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment."
bullet "Prior to the consideration of embryo donation and through consultation with the individuals seeking fertility treatment, it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded."
bullet "The individuals seeking fertility treatment donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation." 6

Reactions pro and con to President Obama's executive order

References used in the above essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Ben Feller and Lauren Neergaard, "Pro-family leader denounces stem cell policy change," One News Now, 2009-MAR-07, at:
  2. Bernadette Tansey, "Obama policy a lift for stem cell researchers,"  San Francisco Chronicle, 2008-NOV-29, at:
  3. David Alexander, "Obama lists Bush restrictions on stem cell research," Reuters News Agency, 2009-MAR-09, at:
  4. Seth Borenstein & Ben Feller, "Obama opens up stem cell work, science inquiries," Associated Press, 2009-MAR-09, at:
  5. Status of: A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research," Thomas (Library of Congress), at:
  6. Text of the bill is at:
  7. "Declining Majority of Americans Favor Embryonic Stem Cell Research," The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2008-JUL-17, at:

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Copyright 1998 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-MAR-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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