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Obama Press Conference: Once Again the President is Disengenuous on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Policy

Posted Mar 25 2009 4:23pm

I was just watching President Obama's press conference and noticed that he once again dissembled on his answer regarding embryonic stem cell research. From the transcript:
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. In your remarks on stem-cell research earlier this month, you talked about a majority consensus in determining whether or not this is the right thing to do, to federally fund embryonic stem-cell research. I'm just wondering, though, how much you personally wrestled with the morality or ethics of federally funding this kind of research, especially given the fact that science so far has shown a lot of progress with adult stem cells but not a lot with embryonic?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay. No, I -- I think it's a -- I think it's a legitimate question. I -- I wrestle with these issues every day. As I mentioned to -- I think in an interview a couple of days ago, by the time an issue reaches my desk, it's a hard issue. If it was an easy issue, somebody else would have solved it and it wouldn't have reached me.

Look, I believe that it is very important for us to have strong moral guidelines, ethical guidelines, when it comes to stem-cell research or anything that touches on, you know, the issues of possible cloning or issues related to, you know, the human life sciences. I think those issues are all critical, and I've said so before. I wrestle with it on stem cells; I wrestle with it on issues like abortion.
Except that Obama stated during the campaign that he supports the Freedom of Choice Act that would apparently end any and all regulation on abortion through the ninth month, whether at the federal or local levels. He also refused to support the Illinois version of the Infant Born Alive Protection Act when he was a state senator. He is actively seeking to dismantle the Bush "conscience clause" regulation that protected health care workers with moral qualms about procedures like abortion. If he really wrestled with abortion, he lost the bout!

Back to the president:
I think that the guidelines that we provided meet that ethical test. What we have said is that for embryos that are typically about to be discarded, for us to be able to use those in order to find cures for Parkinson's or for Alzheimer's or for, you know, all sorts of other debilitating diseases, juvenile diabetes, that -- that it is the right thing to do. And that's not just my opinion. That is the opinion of a number of people who are also against abortion.
It seems to me his ESCR policies are almost as wide open as his abortion policies. For example, there was no requirement in the recent EO that the Feds only fund stem cell lines that came from "leftover" embryos. This means the NIH could, theoretically, fund stem cell lines taken from embryos created explicitly for the purpose of being destroyed--an approach the ethics opinion of the National Academy of Sciences supports as perfectly fine and proper.

And by the way, Alzheimer's is not the kind of a disease likely to be cured by embryonic stem cell infusions because it is caused by plaques that attack the whole brain. Why do some believe it is? Because, despite it not being true, as one ESCR-hyping scientist put it several years ago, "People need a fairy tale."

Cue the POTUS:

Now, I am glad to see progress is being made in adult stem cells. And if the science determines that we can completely avoid a set of ethical questions or political disputes, then that's great. I have -- I have no investment in causing controversy. I’m happy to avoid it if that's where the science leads us.
Then why rescind the 2007 Bush order requiring that the Feds fund research into non controversial "alternative" methods, the very kind of policy geared toward bridging our bitter cultural and political divides, a matter he has now twice kept quite mum about--here and in his stem cell speech.

Obama continued:

But what I don't want to do is predetermine this based on a very rigid ideological approach. And that's what I think is reflected in the executive order that I signed.
But that is what he did, base his order on a very rigid ideological approach that views nascent human life is so much chopped liver. Indeed, as far as I can tell, he took federal funding just as far as the law allows, and only expressed an ethical qualm about the only limit he seems to have placed on anything only an ethical qualm about reproductive cloning, a matter with which he is unlikely he to have to deal directly in his term of office due to profound technological challenges that stand between here and the hypothetical birth of the first baby gestated from a cloned embryo.

Sigh. Definitely not the straight talk express.
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