Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stem Shell Game

On Monday August 23, 2010, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. issued an injunction on the use of federal funding for embryo-destructive stem cell research. The New York Times’ (for one example) reaction to the announcement was one of stunned indignation:
"The ruling came as a shock to scientists at the National Institutes of Health and at universities across the country, which had viewed the Obama administration’s new policy and the grants provided under it as settled law."
What the Times failed to note in its story was that Judge Lamberth was not the first federal official to strike a legal blow against President Barack Obama's stem cell policy and thereby block federal funding of embryo destructive stem cell research. The first such move actually occurred on March 11, 2009. That move was made by ... President Barack Obama.

The fact is that Judge Lamberth's ruling is perfectly consistent with the law. While the administration, with great public fanfare, claimed to have "lifted the ban" on ESCR with his March 9, 2009 Executive Order (EO), Mr. Obama quietly overrode his own EO just two days later when he re-signed (as has every president since 1996) the Dickey-Wicker Amendment to a federal appropriations bill (as Scott noted in his post on the subject). The Dickey-Wicker Amendment bans public funding of research that destroys human embryos. Mr. Obama signed it. He didn't call a big press conference to herald the occasion because doing so would not fit the narrative he is trying to sell about his forward looking faith in science as opposed to the Luddite opponents of ESCR.

The dirty little secret here is that the stem cell research EO Mr. Obama and those who are carrying his water have called "policy" and referred to as "settled law" is a hollow document that carries no legal force. His signing of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment into law is binding and the unquestionable basis on which Judge Lamberth rendered his decision.

The reality of that fact is something pro-lifers need to soak in. Though it is becoming a fading memory, it serves to remind us of another EO Mr. Obama issued during the health care debate. In exchange for the votes of so-called "pro-life Democrats," Mr. Obama issued an EO proclaiming there would be no federal funding of abortion in the health care bill. They bought it. He signed it. And now we are left with an EO on abortion that contains the same amount of legal power we find in his EO on stem cell research.


Judge Lamberth's ruling is also perfectly consistent with basic ethical reasoning. Where adult and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (IPSC) research have produced more than 75 successful therapies, embryonic stem cell research has produced exactly zero. Yet, Mr. Obama continues to push for the latter. And while they may be smaller and less developed, the embryos he wants to use are distinct, genetically whole, living human beings. That fact is scientific, not religious. There is no ethical justification for taking the life of a defenseless human being -- no matter his/her size or level of development -- for the benefit of another.

The truth is that adult and IPSC research constitute the common ground that Mr. Obama claims to seek. They are more successful and they do not entail the destruction of human beings. This is a political win-win. Mr. Obama could claim the successes of these therapies while at the same time assuaging the ethical concerns of those who hold them. Yet, for some unknown reason, he never undertakes a single action that would further his claim to seek that common ground.

Given Mr. Obama's political nature and the political power he wields as the most powerful man on earth, one has to wonder why he wouldn't take advantage of the political win-win being offered. That he doesn't do so tells us that his motivations on this issue aren't political. And if they're not political, one has to wonder just what his motivations really are.
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