About Barack Obama’s EO on Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

On Monday President Barack Obama signed his executive order reversing the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. He stood proudly with Americans from all over the country who have lobbied for this reversal. As he invoked the memory of Christopher Reeve who suffered from a tragic spinal cord injury, he proclaimed that this was the change “so many scientists and researchers and doctors and innovators, patients and loved ones have hoped for and fought for these past eight years.”

Well, not so fast. Two days later, the omnibus spending bill that Obama signed reversed his reversal. There was a provision in the omnibus spending bill called Dickey-Wicker that made it illegal to use federal funds in the creation and destruction of human embryos for research.

A White House official told CNSNews.com that in keeping with language included in the spending bill that President Obama signed into law Wednesday, federal funding cannot go to research that creates or destroys human embryos, but it can go to research that uses stem cells taken from embryos that are destroyed without federal funds.

On Monday, Obama signed an executive order lifting a previous executive order–signed by President Bush in 2001–that limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to stem-cell lines that had been created from embryos destroyed before that time. Bush’s aim was to ensure that no further human embryos were destroyed for federal research purposes.

On Wednesday, just two days after lifting Bush’s executive order, Obama signed a 465-page omnibus appropriations bill that included language (at page 280 of the bill) specifically prohibiting federal funding of research that creates or destroys an embryo or subjects an embryo to risk of injury or death.

The language–known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment–has been included in the Department of Health and Human Services appropriations every fiscal year since 1996.
At this point, Democrats are trying to get other pro-life Democrats to help them overturn the Dickey-Wicker provision. Until that happens, however, the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research remains in place.

It goes without saying that it would be a good idea for Congress and the president to actually read the bills they want made into laws.

By the way, 1996 was before President Bush’s term in office, so when he ordered the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, he was simply upholding the law that was already in existence.

Update: I need to issue a partial correction. The Dickey-Wicker law prevents federal funding for the creation and destruction of human embryos for research. It does not address those human embryos that have already created and are in fertility clinics. Until the Dickey-Wicker law is overturned, there will not be any federally funded human embryo farms.

Update II: I second guessed myself a little too quickly here. The CNS article outlines Dickey-Wicker in this way:

None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for — (1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.

The second part of that provision does not distinguish between those embryos that have already created and are currently stored in fertility clinics and those embryos that have yet to be created. Therefore, I was right to begin with.

Update III: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air knows far more about stem cell research than I, and he has an instructional post about how adult stem cells hold far more life saving potential than embryonic.

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