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Obama Administration Ups Anti-Life “Ante” on Bioethics

Over the past week, the Obama Administration has made two key decisions on bioethics — both of which promote unethical and anti-life policies.

First, on November 24, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13521, establishing the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. The new Commission, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will “advise the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology. The Commission shall pursue its work with the goal of identifying and promoting policies and practices that ensure scientific research, healthcare delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in an ethically responsible manner.” By deliberate design, the Commission will be heavily involved in determining the Administration’s policies regarding human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and already-proven and ethical forms of research such as the use of adult stem cells.

However, it is important to view the Order and the purported goals of this Commission in light of the fact that, in June 2009, President Obama dissolved the President’s Council on Bioethics established by President George W. Bush in 2001. As Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council has noted, the Council’s charter was not scheduled to end until September 2009 and, at the time there was concern that “it was booted early to clear the deck for a new bioethics group aligned with the [P]resident. But no new bioethics council was formed to fill the void. Seems likely the old bioethics council was just giving contrary signals to the President (10 of the 18 members criticized the President after his March 9 speech where he opened the possibility of using more human embryos for research, including creating cloned human embryos for experiments.) Given that the [National Institutes of Health] was preparing to promulgate new guidelines for using human embryos, including the steps to take for their destruction to allow federal taxpayer funding of their harvested cells, the President’s bioethics council presented an official unwelcome burr under the saddle.”

The complete membership of the Commission has yet to be disclosed, but the Executive Order provides that “at least one and not more than three [of the Commission members] “¦ may be bioethicists or scientists drawn from the executive branch, as designated by the President.” So, President Obama is in a position to appoint like-minded individuals to the Commission — individuals, who like the President, support life-destroying and unethical research while blithely ignoring the substantial promise of ethical forms of research including adult stem-cell research which has already yielded treatments and therapies for more than 70 diseases and conditions.

And just today, the Administration explicitly authorized the use of taxpayer dollars for destructive embryo research. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has approved up to $21 million for research on 13 embryonic stem-cell lines — lines created through the destruction of days-old human embryos. Notably, in March 2009, President Obama rescinded President Bush’s August 2001 Executive Order limiting federal funding to research on then-existing embryonic stem-cell lines and prohibiting federal funding of the production of or research on newly-created embryonic stem-cell lines.

In making today’s announcement, NIH’s Frances Collins noted that “[w]hat we are announcing today is just the beginning.” According to LifeNews.com, “NIH is also reviewing hundreds of other embryonic stem cell lines for federal funding under the guidelines the agency issued to implement Obama’s order.”

The politically-driven audacity of these moves cannot be underestimated. Why are American taxpayers being forced to fund research that many consider immoral? Moreover, why are we investing in this immoral research when ethical forms of research are yielding real treatments for real patients while destructive embryo research has never yielded a single positive outcome? The answer would appear to be: “It’s politics, stupid.”