...researchers have made progress on all of these methods – most strikingly in reprogramming somatic cells in order to restore them to a pluripotent condition. In the last two years, several different groups of scientists have succeeded in producing what are called induced pluripotent stem cells. Because producing them does not require the destruction of embryos, they do not raise what many regard as a grave moral difficulty. Because producing them does not require human ova, and because they are patient-specific stem cells that are less likely to be rejected by their recipients, they also have distinct scientific advantages. Indeed, on the day following President Obama’s announcement, an analysis in the New York Times noted that the embryonic stem cell research the president had touted “has been somewhat eclipsed by new advances.”
It is also worth noting here the position adopted by our predecessor body, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, which did important work during the Clinton administration. NBAC approved stem cell research using (and, of course, destroying) embryos remaining after in vitro fertilization treatments. At the same time, however, NBAC stated that such embryo-destructive research is justifiable “only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research.” Such alternatives are now available, and research on them is advancing.
With respect to the progress that had been made in reconciling the needs of research and the moral concerns of many Americans, we can only judge, therefore, that the president’s action has taken a step backward, and we regret that.
In his remarks on March 9, President Obama promised to “ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction.” While this may seem comforting, it stands in need of clarification.
The president’s announced policy would permit federal funding of research not only on stem cell lines derived from “spare” IVF embryos but also on lines derived from created and/or cloned embryos. In the latter two cases, we would be producing embryos simply in order to use them for our purposes.
What researchers most desire, in fact, are not spare IVF embryos but cloned embryos, produced in order to study disease models. The funding decision announced by the president on March 9 will encourage such cloning. Nor should we be reassured that, at the same time, the president opposed “the use of cloning for human reproduction.” If cloned embryos are produced, they may be implanted and gestated. To prevent that, it will be necessary, as we noted in Human Cloning and Human Dignity, “to prohibit, by law, the implantation of cloned embryos for the purpose of producing children. To do so, however, the government would find itself in the unsavory position of designating a class of embryos that it would be a felony not to destroy.” We cannot believe that this would advance our society’s commitment to equal human dignity.
Yuval Levin at The Corner:
..What’s notable about this statement.... is that rather than just express disagreement with the ethical views underlying Obama’s position on embryonic stem cell research, it criticizes Obama for mischaracterizing the plain facts of the matter, which unfortunately has been his consistent practice ...
Is the President ignorant, or does he lie? There's no third option.