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Obama to Lift Restrictions on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

( [email protected] ) Mar 07, 2009 01:10 PM EST

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order reversing a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, according to administration officials.

The officials said the president will announce the move at a Monday event at the White House, during which he will overturn a 2001 order by President George W. Bush that restricted federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to the existing 60 cell lines, according to reports by The Associated Press and CNN.

Obama's intent to lift restrictions on the controversial type of stem cell research has been known for some time and is even articulated as part of his administration's agenda on The White House's Web site. But the exact date of when the reversal would take place was leaked on Friday.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, accused the president of "leaking" the news on Friday so it would receive less attention.

He said the administration used the same tactic to announce the repeal of other pro-life orders, including the Mexico City Policy, which declared that American tax dollars would not fund international organizations involved in performing or promoting abortions abroad, and a Bush administration rule that federally funded health institutions comply with laws protecting the conscience of medical and health practitioners.

Perkins said the order would give a green light to the use of taxpayer funds for experiments that encourage human embryo destruction.

"I believe it is unethical to use human life, even young embryonic life, to advance science," he said in a statement. "While such research is unfortunately legal, taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for experiments that require the destruction of human life."

Embryonic stem cell research has drawn controversy because it necessitates the destruction of the embryo during the process of harvesting the stem cells.

Proponents of embryonic stem cell research point to the cell’s pluripotent ability – or its capacity to become nearly all cell types and tissues in the body – claiming that it holds the cure for debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes.

But pro-lifers, many of whom believe that life begins at conception, argue that destroying a human embryo is tantamount to killing human life. Many hold the view that embryonic stem cell research is not only unethical but also unsuccessful in producing cures or treatments for debilitating diseases.

Adult stem cell research is much more promising, pro-life advocates say.

"We should be increasing funding for adult stem cell treatments, which have been used to treat patients for over 70 diseases and conditions, and we should fund the historic achievements in reprogramming ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells without compromising ethics by destroying life," stated Perkins.

Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey also echoed Perkins' sentiments.

"Why does the president persist in the dehumanizing of nascent human life when better alternatives exist? Human embryo-destroying stem cell research is not only unethical, unworkable and unreliable – it is now, demonstrably unnecessary," said Smith, according to FOXNews.

In anticipation of Obama's decision, the National Institute of Health has started drafting guidelines, that among other ethical demands, are expected to require that the cells being used are derived with proper informed consent from the woman or couple who donated the original embryo, according to AP.

Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UC San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle the NIH will probably not be permitted to fund the actual derivation of new embryonic stem cells, under a federal law limiting embryo research called the Dickey-Wicker amendment.