Obama reverses stem cell research ban

Obama reverses stem cell research ban

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] signed [press release] an executive order [text; fact sheet] Monday which removed the previous administration's restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell [JURIST news archive] research. The order fulfills Obama's campaign promise to reverse the limitations that were put in place eight years ago by the Bush administration. Obama stated his reasoning [prepared remarks] for removing the barriers in the order:

Research involving human embryonic stem cells and human non-embryonic stem cells has the potential to lead to better understanding and treatment of many disabling diseases and conditions. Advances over the past decade in this promising scientific field have been encouraging, leading to broad agreement in the scientific community that the research should be supported by Federal funds.

For the past 8 years, the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to fund and conduct human embryonic stem cell research has been limited by Presidential actions. The purpose of this order is to remove these limitations on scientific inquiry, to expand NIH support for the exploration of human stem cell research, and in so doing to enhance the contribution of America's scientists to important new discoveries and new therapies for the benefit of humankind.

Also Monday, Obama issued the Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity [text; fact sheet], which charges the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) [official website] with developing strategies to ensure government agencies follow proper procedures for disclosing scientific findings, for reviewing such findings, and for protecting the scientific process, including protection of whistleblowers. The memorandum also orders the director to ensure that scientific and technology positions in the executive branch are filled based on an individual's technological knowledge, credentials, and experience.

In 2007, then-president George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 [S 5 materials], which was intended to relax funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. At that time, the administration said the bill would, for the first time, compel taxpayers to support the destruction of human embryos, a "moral line" the president would not allow the nation to cross. In 2006, Bush vetoed a previous version [JURIST report] of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Senate to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, saying he would not provide federal funding for stem cell research because many consider the destruction of embryos to be murder.