HT Image
HT Image

Obama to remove curbs on stem-cell tests

US President Barack Obama will today wipe out another contentious aspect of his predecessor George W Bush's legacy by removing curbs on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Washington
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2009 12:22 PM IST

US President Barack Obama will on Monday wipe out another contentious aspect of his predecessor George W Bush's legacy by removing curbs on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

The President will sign an executive order reversing a policy that critics say has hampered the fight into finding treatments for grave diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes, a senior administration official said.

The official would not divulge the exact wording of the order, but confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that it would be in line with Obama's campaign vow to restore funding to embryonic stem-cell research.

The move will spark delight among scientists who have long campaigned for the Bush policy to be overturned, but was already running into fire from social conservatives and right-to-life groups.

Obama spelled out his campaign policy on stem-cell research last August in a list of answers to the Science Debate 2008 scientific lobby group.

"I strongly support expanding research on stem cells," Obama wrote. "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."

Reports about Obama's plans for Monday were immediately condemned by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who called Obama's plan "a slap in the face to Americans who believe in the dignity of all human life."

John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives said government money should be used to fund alternative stem-cell research that does not involve destroying an embryo.

"Republicans enthusiastically support adult, cord blood, and pluripotent stem cell research that have shown so much promise in recent years," Boehner said. "The question is whether taxpayer dollars should be used to subsidize the destruction of precious human life."

Bush barred federal funding from supporting work on new lines of stem cells derived from human embryos in 2001, allowing research only on a small number of embryonic stem-cell lines which existed at that time.

The former president argued that using human embryos for scientific research -- which often involves their destruction -- crossed a moral barrier and urged scientists to consider other alternatives.

Bush also several times vetoed legislation passed by Congress backing the research.

But Obama reportedly told Democratic lawmakers shortly after his inauguration in January that he would guarantee lifting Bush-era restrictions on federal funding of stem-cell research.

He also co-sponsored legislation while a senator that would have permitted using federal funding for stem-cell research.

Embryonic stem cells are primitive cells from early-stage embryos capable of developing into almost every tissue of the body.

The Obama administration took aim at another controversial Bush administration policy on Friday, vowing to rescind a rule that would allow health care workers to deny medical care such as birth control or abortion to patients if it clashes with their morals.

The Department of Health and Human Services filed a proposal to "rescind in its entirety" the so-called refusal or conscience rule, which was pushed through by Bush on December 18, a month before Obama took office.

Story Saved