Obama’s embryonic stem cell decision ignored pro-life Democrats

Obama’s embryonic stem cell decision ignored pro-life Democrats

Kristen Day/ President Obama
Kristen Day/ President Obama


After being excluded by the Obama Administration from the conversation on embryonic stem cell research, Democrats for Life of America is expressing its absolute opposition to the President’s executive order lifting restrictions on the practice. The snub is causing many pro-life Democrats to reexamine their support for President Obama as they ponder the future direction of their Party.

The pro-life Democratic group voiced its surprise that the Obama administration did not give them an opportunity to comment on the policy change, after his team had consulted them over the Mexico City Policy.

The group said in a Monday statement:

“DFLA is against President Obama’s decision, period. There are workable and successful options available to private sector research operations that use umbilical cord blood and non embryonic stem cells. To frame this decision as a necessity to cure finding medical research is not accurate. 

“While we have zero confidence that a call for reversal of this Executive Order will prevail, we are hopeful that the President will heed our call for common ground solutions in dealing with pro-life Democrats.”

DFLA said it had an opportunity to state its concerns on the proposed Mexico City Policy reversal in discussions with representatives of the Obama Administration. However, President Obama’s expansion of embryonic stem cell research funding “came as a surprise” to the group.

“DFLA has had a productive relationship both with the campaign and the early stages of the new Administration. To have no opportunity to weigh in on this controversial issue signals a cooling of our relations,” the group said.

An essay published on the DFLA web site on Jan. 26 attacked the embryonic stem cell research debate’s “false dilemma” between being pro-science and pro-life. It argued that policymakers must not push aside ethical issues concerning the creation, cloning and destruction of human embryos.

DFLA again pointed to new research which can produce stem cells similar to embryonic stem cells while avoiding “many moral and practical problems.”

“Supporters of embryonic stem cell research seek to avoid the moral and ethical objections by arguing that the end – the possibility of a breakthrough that might advance medicine – justifies the means – destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells,” DFLA writes, calling this a “dubious argument.”

The DFLA also warns that some backers of embryonic stem cell research advocate “therapeutic” cloning in which embryos cloned from a patient are destroyed for their stem cells.

“Recent developments may well make embryonic stem cells obsolete. At a minimum, scientists must be encouraged to harness the enormous potential of powerful new stem cells created without destroying human embryos.”

In its Monday statement, DFLA suggested the Pregnant Women’s Support Act (PWSA) would be an area of cooperation with the Obama administration.

“We believe this should be put on the front of the legislative burner,” DFLA said.

“We will work with the President to pass this landmark abortion reduction bill and we are hopeful that he will see the PWSA is a far better way to work with pro-life Democrats than focusing on divisive issues that highlight our differences on issues dealing with life and the unborn.”

Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) Executive Director Kristen Day told CNA in a Wednesday phone interview that the decision has prompted many pro-life Democrats to report that they are re-examining their recent support for President Obama as they contemplate the direction of their party.

Saying that the overturning of the Bush-era executive order was “a little disappointing,” she added, “We were hoping that Congress could have an opportunity to look into this.”

Although President Obama said in his speech announcing the executive order that the limitations implemented by President Bush forced "a false choice between sound science and moral values," he did not specify how moral values could allow the scientific experiments, but merely ignored any moral objections in the name of science.

Kristen Day explained to CNA that “There are moral concerns here. We’re using human embryos. Is it okay to sacrifice one life or many lives to save another? This is something we really should be treading carefully on.

“We’re opposed to using the human embryos and experimenting on them. The end doesn’t justify the means.

“The unfortunate thing about this whole debate has been the confusion around it. Media reports talk about ‘stem cell research’ and there’s no distinction made between adult stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research.

“If people started to distinguish between them, I think there’d be a big shift in support.

“So much has been done and so many cures using adult stem cell research… If you look at adult and umbilical and placental stem cell research, we have cures. Cures for leukemia, cures for sickle-cell anemia.

“We should really be focusing our time and effort on what works. We should probably be using our limited funds, especially in this economy, to use things that are actually working.

CNA asked about legislators’ proposals to codify the president’s executive order in law.

“Really I think a better effort would be to step back. Let’s not rush anything,” Day said. “A lot of people need to be educated about what is going on.”

Day also lamented the “false hope” generated by the claim that President Obama’s executive order is going to cure people.

Asked about other proposals on embryonic stem cell research, such as efforts to overturn the Dickey-Wicker Amendment which bars funding for research which creates or destroys human embryos, she replied:

“We suspected they would come up, given the way things have gone this Congress so far.”

Day said the DFLA had been talking to Obama staffers during the presidential campaign and during the presidential transition on the Mexico City Policy, but not on embryonic stem cell research policy.

“We had no chance to comment on this at all. It’s a little questionable about where we are going.

“We’ve had a good working relationship, which we would like to continue to advance the Pregnant Women Support Act.

“There are a lot of pro-life Democrats who supported the president and voted for him. And I’m hearing a lot of comments from people now who are thinking that was a mistake. They’re wondering where our Party is going.”

CNA asked Day about being in the position of a Democrat who is defending a Republican president’s policy against a Democratic president’s changes.

“The pro-life issue should not be partisan,” Day stated. “There are definitely differences between the parties on raising minimum wage and health care. When you’re talking about pro-life, it should not be a party thing. It cannot be a party thing, because we’re talking about human life here.

Asked to give advice for those opposed to embryo-destructive research, Day said:

“Talk to as many people as you can and share real information about what this does. And really try to advocate for more funding for stem cell research that does work.”

People should especially talk about the distinction between embryonic and non-embryonic stem cell research, she counseled.

“There is really a lot of misinformation out there. People believe ESCR has cured things and it hasn’t. Be careful, and read closely.”

Day specifically advised pro-life Democrats to contact the Obama administration and share their concerns and to write to the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee “as a pro-life Democrat.”

 “We are Democrats and we are Pro-life and this is a consistent position for our Party to hold.

“We’ve been too quiet for far too long and we really need to be more forceful and speak up more.”

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