Bioethicist: Obama funding of embryo destruction would be discrimination


White House adviser David Axelrod announced on "Fox News Sunday" that President Barack Obama is about to announce his next anti-life decision:  erasing every limitation  President George W. Bush placed on federal funding for embryonic stem cell  research  (ESCR).

Under the previous administration, federal money for ESCR was limited to those stem cell lines that were created before Aug. 9, 2001, while no federal dollars could be used on research with cell lines from embryos destroyed from that point forward.

Obama "right now is considering an executive order lifting the federal ban on funding" for ESCR, Axelrod told Fox News.

Even though President Obama’s election was hailed by people everywhere as a victory against discrimination, Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk Education Director for the National Catholic Bioethics Center observes that if Obama funds research on embryos, he'll be subjecting them to discrimination.

“The smart plan for our country's future would be to encourage the myriad of available alternatives, rather than funding the most unethical type of research that relies on a form of discrimination against an entire class of humans - embryonic humans - being singled out for targeted destruction at the hands of researchers,” he told CNA.

According to a 2006 poll commissioned by "Research America," an organization dedicated to promoting ESCR among the U.S. public, with an emphasis on dismissing religious objection to the practice, claims that 58% of Americans favor the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research; with only 34% "strongly" supporting it and another 24% “somewhat" in favor.  Twenty nine percent are opposed to ESCR, and 13% say that they don’t know what it is. 

The same poll showed that of those opposed to ESCR, 57% say they have religious objections to it, while 39% say they object to the research on grounds other than religion.

Ryan T. Anderson, assistant director of the Program on Bioethics and Human Dignity at the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, N.J., explained to First Things that because of the technical challenges and scientific hurdles ESCR therapies face, "there are no human embryonic stem-cell therapies even in clinical trial, let alone ready for therapy, and there have been no major treatment models in animals, either."

"Adult stem cells, however, have already been successful in treating more than seventy different diseases in actual human beings," he added.

Fr. Pacholczyk agreed, pointing out that, “a number of powerful alternatives already exist to achieve similar research goals or desired clinical outcomes. Stem cells, even the pluripotent variety, can be obtained from multiple sources besides embryos. A major breakthrough in November of 2007 showed that pluripotent stem cells can be derived from human skin cells, by "reprogramming" them with special genes. Pluripotent stem cells can also be derived from adult testicles (so-called germ cells) and from spontaneously miscarried fetuses. Finally, significant clinical breakthroughs are occurring almost weekly using adult (multipotent) stem cells. This morning [Monday], for example, a biotech company reported significant progress in treating Parkinson's disease using a patient's own adult stem cells.”

Anderson also reminded readers that "the main objection to current methods of embryonic stern-cell research is that they involve the destruction of living human embryos, that is, human beings at the embryonic stage in their lives. This is a principled objection to the direct and intentional killing of human beings."

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