Once again, Democrats, Republicans and independents are seeing in this big news how elections do have consequences — and many scientists and victims of catastrophic diseases are feeling relieved:
President Obama is planning to sign an executive order on Monday rolling back restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, according to sources close to the issue.
Although the exact wording of the order has not been revealed, the White House plans an 11 a.m. ceremony to sign the order repealing one of the most controversial steps taken by his predecessor, fulfilling one of Obama’s eagerly anticipated campaign promises.
The move, long sought by scientists and patient advocates and opposed by religious groups, would enable the National Institutes of Health to consider requests from scientists to study hundreds of lines of cells that have been developed since the limitations were put in place — lines that scientists and patient advocate say hold great hope for leading to cures for a host of major ailments.
Administration officials would not comment immediately other than to say “there will be a stem cell related event on Monday.” But an email sent out yesterday from the White House stated that officials were planning a ceremony on Monday “on stem cells and restoring scientific integrity to the government process. At the event the president will sign an executive order related to stem cells.” Sources close to the issue, asking not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the plan, said the order would lift the restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cells.
Aside from the medical issues and controversy, this is likely to further heighten the ideological hardening of positions that has started to occur since Obama’s election. Bush’s action was applauded by many (but not all — and that includes some famous proponents such as Nancy Reagan) in the Republican party’s conservative base and pointed to as symbolic and symptomatic of the Bush administration’s seemingly dismissive attitude towards scientists as it gave heavier weight to religious and ideological factors.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.