Rep. Smith: President Obama chose politics over science with embryo order

(L to R) Maggie Keating, Cheri Keating, Cong. Chris Smith, Will Keating, Bill Keating. Maggie and Will are “Snowflake babies.”
(L to R) Maggie Keating, Cheri Keating, Cong. Chris Smith, Will Keating, Bill Keating. Maggie and Will are “Snowflake babies.”


Just after President Obama announced his executive order lifting restrictions on embryonic stem cell research on Monday, Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) held a press conference suggesting that Obama’s decision was politically based rather than by studying the latest scientific breakthroughs.


Rep. Smith began his Monday statement by noting that during a time of impressive breakthroughs in adult stem cell research, the President is forcing “taxpayers to subsidize the unethical over the ethical, the unworkable over what works, and hype and hyperbole over hope.”


“Human embryo destroying stem cell research is not only unethical, unworkable, and unreliable, it is now demonstrably unnecessary.” 


The congressman explained that by his executive order, Obama is cheapening human life.   “Assertions that leftover embryos are better off dead so that their stem cells can be derived is dehumanizing and cheapens human life. There is no such thing as leftover human life.  Ask the snowflake children— cryogenically frozen embryos who were adopted—their lives are precious and priceless.”


Several snowflake children were present during the congressman’s speech.


After noting the many “noncontroversial” breakthroughs in adult stem cell research, such as using umbilical cord blood stem cells and induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC), Smith suggested that Obama based his decision to end the embryonic stem cell restrictions strictly on politics.


“Mr. Obama is way behind the times. Making Americans pay for embryo-destroying stem cell research is not change we can believe in. Far from it. It is politics! A decade ago, the false hope of embryo destroying research made it difficult to oppose. That is no longer the case.”


If so, the congressman asked, “Why persist in the dehumanizing of nascent human life when better alternatives exist, alternatives that work on both ethics grounds and efficacy grounds. Non-embryonic stem cell research is the present and it is the future of regenerative medicine, and the only responsible way forward.”


Rep. Smith went on to list several non-embryonic stem cell breakthroughs that were reported by mainstream media including articles from Reuters, the New York Times and the Associated Press.


“For example, on November 21, 2007 Reuters reported, and I quote, ‘Two separate teams of researchers announced on Tuesday they had transformed ordinary skin cells into batches of cells that look and act like embryonic stem cells, but without using cloning technology and without making embryos.’”


Rep. Smith also referred to a New York Times article from the same day: “Two teams of scientists reported yesterday that they had turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo—a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.”


The Associated Press said, “Scientists have created the equivalent of embryonic stem cells from ordinary skin cells, a breakthrough that could someday produce new treatments for diseases without the explosive moral questions of embryo cloning.”


The congressmen also mentioned other publications such as the Detroit Free Press, the Washington Post, and Medical News Today, which have lauded the scientific progress made  using non-embryonic stem cells. 


Citing the latest news on the iPS front, from the scientific journal, Nature, Rep. Smith recalled “that they had successfully reprogrammed ordinary skin cells into induced pluripotent skin cells without the use of viruses to transmit the reprogramming genes to the cell.”  By “using a ‘piggyback’ system, as they called it, the scientists were able to insert DNA where they could alter the genetic make-up of the regular cell before being harmlessly removed.”


“According to many scientists,” Smith explained, “the removal of potentially cancer-causing viruses means this breakthrough increases the likelihood that iPS cells will be safe for clinical use in human patients. The lead scientist from Canada, Andras Nagy, was quoted in the Washington Post saying, ‘It's a leap forward in the safe application of these cells. We expect this to have a massive impact on this field’.”


Smith noted that this new breakthrough, “suggests the momentum has decisively and irrevocably swung to noncontroversial stem cell research like iPS cells and away from embryo-destroying research.”  He then quoted the other lead scientist in the discovery who said that the breakthrough, “is a step towards the practical use of reprogrammed cells in medicine, perhaps even eliminating the need for human embryos as a source of stem cells.’”


“Despite all of this new and extraordinary progress in the iPS and adult stem cell research arena,” Smith said as he brought his address to a close, “the Obama administration and the House and Senate Democratic leadership remain obsessed with killing human embryos for experimentation at taxpayer expense.”

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