White House photo/Pete Souza
President Barack Obama signed an executive order today lifting the Bush Administration’s ban on using federal funds for controversial embryonic stem cell research. President Obama conceded “the promise of stem cell research remains unknown,” but sees great opportunities in that promise: “… scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them.”
Also, the president acknowledged the heated debate over this type of research and criticized the Bush administration’s position: “…..rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral value … As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”
In his remarks, the president paid tribute to two crusaders of stem cell research, Christopher and Dana Reeve. The paralyzed actor/activist died before research could help him walk again. President Obama noted: “Christopher did not get that chance. But if we pursue this research, maybe one day – maybe not in our lifetime, or even in our children’s lifetime – but maybe one day, others like him might.”
Meanwhile, former First Lady Nancy Reagan released a statement praising President Obama for overturning the ban. Mrs. Reagan has been a supporter of stem cell research for many years. Former President Ronald Reagan died June 5, 2004, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease — an illness scientists hope embryonic stem cell research will help cure one day.