Search Results for 'executive order'


In my previous post I discussed President Obama’s recent Executive Order to expand the number of embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding.  It turns out that’s not all the president did.  Part of the Executive Order entailed revoking President Bush’s Executive Order 13435 (issued June 20, 2007), which made it a priority to fund research into alternative methods of obtaining pluripotent stem cells-methods that do not involve the destruction of embryos.  That policy was largely responsible for the iPS breakthrough that revolutionized the field of stem cell research.

Why would Obama revoke that Executive Order?  The most promising areas of stem cell research have been those that do not involve the destruction of embryos (adult stem cells, cord stem cells, iPS).  Why would he pull funding for the most promising areas of stem cell research, and direct those funds into the least promising area of research: ESCR?

This is ironic in light of Obama’s own stated support for “groundbreaking work to convert ordinary human cells into ones that resemble embryonic stem cells.”  It is also baffling given his own admission that to-date, ESCR has not produced therapeutic benefits.  Contrast this to research using alternative sources of stem cells, which have yielded more than 70 treatments.  It doesn’t make any sense to put all of one’s eggs in a basket that is both medically unproductive and ethically suspect, when there are other baskets that are both medically productive and ethical.  It seems Obama is being driven by an ideology that is more concerned with promoting research involving the destruction of human embryos, than he is with funding research that is yielding actual therapeutic benefits for sick Americans.  So much for putting science ahead of ideology.  If he was interested in science, he would put his money on ethical alternatives to ESCR such as iPS.

Catching up on the news….

Last year (March 9, 20010) President Obama signed an Executive Order overturning President Bush’s stem cell policy that allowed federal funding for stem cell research on stem cell lines created prior to August 9, 2001, but not after.  President Obama wished to expand federal funding to include stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001.

Ironically, two days after issuing his EO, President Obama signed into law the annual appropriations bill which included the Dickey-Wicker amendment.  This amendment, which has appeared in every appropriations bill since 1996, specifically prohibits the use of federal funds for research that involves the destruction of human embryos.  The amendment reads:

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On Monday March 9, President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise by issuing an Executive Order to expand the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).  While the move was expected, it is baffling given the fact that recent advances in the stem cell research field have made ESCR technologically passé.  Just over a year ago scientists were able to come up with a morally benign method of obtaining the biological equivalent of ESCs, called Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS).  iPS cells have the advantage over ESCs in that they do not require the destruction of human embryos or cloning to obtain them, the process of creating them is simple and less expensive, they do not face the problem of somatic rejection when used therapeutically, and they promise a limitless supply of pluripotent stem cells (stem cells that can become any of the body’s 220 cells) for scientific research.  Given the recent technological advances in pluripotent stem cell research, deciding to invest additional money in ESCR makes as much sense as deciding to invest money to make better cassette tapes.  Obama’s Executive Order is out-of-date, and unnecessary.

On the positive side, Obama did not try to hype the potential of embryonic stem cells as have many other politicians.  He candidly admitted that “at this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated.  But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. … [I]f we pursue this research, maybe one day – maybe not in our lifetime, or even in our children’s lifetime – but maybe one day, others like him [Christopher Reeve] might [be cured via embryonic stem cell therapies].”

On the negative side, however, I find Obama’s reasoning to be malformed.  According to Obama,

[I]n recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering.

The dichotomy between science and morality is not a false one.  The two can conflict at times.  We can debate whether the two conflict in the case of embryonic stem cell research, but it will not do to just declare by fiat that there is no conflict.

Interestingly enough, Obama goes on to speak of his own religious moral values, and how they have affected his decision to expand the funding of ESCR.  What I would like to know is why it’s ok for Obama to make policy based on his religious values, but it was wrong for Bush to do the same?  This is a double-standard.  The fact of the matter is that in principle, there is nothing wrong with drawing on one’s religiously-informed moral values to make public policy.  Policies are based on moral considerations, and our understanding of what’s right and wrong is most often informed by our religious convictions.  In this case, however, we have two men with conflicting moral values.  Bush valued all human life – including embryonic life – whereas Obama only values post-natal life.  Bush valued all human life equally, and thus believed it would be immoral to kill one life to save another.  Obama doesn’t value all life equally, and thus thinks it a moral imperative to kill one life to save another.  Each man has a different ideology, and thus a different policy.  So enough with the talk about Bush choosing “ideology over science.”  He chose morality over science.  Obama, on the other hand, is choosing science over morality (although I’m sure he doesn’t see it that way).

CohabitationCohabitation – the politically correct term for what used to be called “shacking up” – has become very common in our day.  Nearly 8 million opposite-sex couples live together today, compared to less than 1 million 30 years ago.  Nearly 10% of all opposite-sex couples are cohabiting, and over half of all first marriages are preceded by a period of cohabitation.

How did we get here?

How did cohabitation go from being illegal in all states prior to 1970 and held in moral contempt by society at large to being so ubiquitous and accepted today?  There are several reasons:

  • The sexual revolution removed the moral stigma of premarital sex.
  • Our culture has moved from a culture of traditions and social conformity to a culture of individualism and personal gratification.
  • We shifted from a deontological view of morality to a pragmatic and relativistic view of morality in which any activity that does not cause harm to others is morally permissible.
  • The recognition of the fragility of marriage, and a corresponding fear of divorce.
  • The rise of feminism which rejected the traditional roles played by married women. Cohabitation promised personal autonomy and more relationship equity.
  • The increasing economic independence of women made marriage less necessary for them. And men, who are generally more fearful of commitment, supported the arrangement since it still provided for their needs of sexual gratification and domestic support.[1]

Cohabitation is not what it seems

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A 34 year old anonymous journalist writes about her abortion experience in Salon.  Her description, like so many others’, makes it clear just how emotionally damaging abortion is for women.  Can you think of any other medical procedure that causes someone so much emotional pain?  I don’t know anyone who agonizes and weeps over the decision to remove their tonsils.  The sort of response described by the author cannot be explained in terms of prior moral sentiments against abortion because the author is clearly pro-choice, and expresses no regret for having an abortion.  Shouldn’t it be obvious that abortion is immoral when even those who think it is morally benign cannot convince their emotions that this is true?  

This is a painful, but good read (despite the very political ending which seems quite out of place and irrelevant).

HT: Jivin Jehoshaphat