Why the Stem Cell Reversal Is Not a Total Victory

This week, President Obama made headlines by reversing George W. Bush’s executive order barring researchers who receive federal funds from researching all but a handful of stem cell lines created before 2001.


“Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry,” Obama wrote. “It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

In The Nation, John Nichols applauds Obama’s restoration of science to its proper place in policy-making.  And Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly points out that, right on cue, the conservative Family Research Council has started disingenuously claiming that Obama’s reversal opens the door for human cloning.

However, as Emily Douglas of RH Reality explains, the full implications of the reversal are more complicated than you might suppose: Obama lifted Bush-era restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell (ESC) researchers. However, researchers are still barred from using federal funds to create or modify human embryos, due to a legislative provision known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment, enacted by Congress in 1996.

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