It’s big news that President Obama reversed President Bush’s policy on embryonic stem cell research and opened it up for federal funding.
With the stroke of a pen, President Obama cleared the
way Monday for the National Institutes of Health and other federal
agencies to fund research using all kinds of human embryonic stem cells.
The power of the pen.
Under the Bush administration, Congress twice passed measures that
would have broadened access to embryonic stem cells for research, and
he vetoed both, preserving the moral ethics of holding the line on
Unlike the bills Bush vetoed, however, Obama’s action
did not replace the existing policy with another set of boundaries
grounded in a different ethical calculus. Instead, Obama eliminated the
Bush policy and then took the unusual and provocative step of also
rescinding Bush’s 2007 executive order providing support for
alternative sources of stem cells — an order that in no way limited
embryonic stem-cell research and need not have been retracted. Having
lifted these restrictions, Obama put no rules or boundaries of any kind
in their place, instructing the scientists at the National Institutes
of Health to do so on his behalf over the next few months. Obama’s
executive order makes no mention of any moral qualm about the
destruction of human embryos — whether left over from fertility
treatments or created especially for experimentation, including human
embryos created by cloning.
With this week’s executive order, Obama has not so much
staked out a position in the embryo debate as dismissed the debate
itself as unnecessary.
That cannot be accomplished with the stroke of a pen.