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Obama to reverse stem cell ban

17th March 2009

Conservative politicians in the US are getting ready to fight for their idea of the rights of human embryos.

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If embryos are defined as people, not only will their use will be prohibited in scientific research, but it will also be illegal to make new ones.

Because President Barack Obama recently lifted the ban barring federal funding from contributing to stem cell research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will now begin to study them.

However, lobbying in Congress is growing among conservatives who demand that some of the restrictions imposed during the past eight years remain.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council said that the executive order for research is just the beginning of a process that is at best morally questionable.

He said that like-minded conservatives would initiate state government legislation that would protect what he called the culture of life, shaping public policy from their vantage point.

Conservatives are also planning to promote the use of induced pluripotent stem cells, derived from adult tissue.

Since researchers at the University of Wisconsin made history by isolating stem cells from human embryos in 1995, debates have been waged at all levels of society.

At the level of state government in the US, some are already taking action, and conservative leaders say that it is only the beginning of state legislation against stem cell research or use.

Last week the state of Georgia, home of several universities distinguished for US scientific research, passed a bill that banned the creation of embryonic stem cell lines.

Aaron Levine, assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology said that some people believe anti-abortion activists use the issue of stem cells to promote their wider concerns.

During the Bush administration, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin all passed legislation or initiatives allowing stem cell research and making provisions for it as well.

However, stem cell research is restricted in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention said that his organisation opposes the death of embryos and that the use of induced pluripotent stem cells does not cause unborn babies to be killed.

He said that state legislators would lose votes in states with large numbers of constituents in his organisation if they supported stem cell research.

Paul Wolpe, of the Center for Ethics at Emory University in Georgia said that if one defines an embryo as a person, one must also wonder why they are able to be frozen.

He said that the idea that pro-life legislators can pick and choose which aspect of human life will be relevant is interesting.

Currently, 38% of Americans say they support Obama's legislation to ease restrictions, and 14% said they favour no restrictions whatsoever, while 41% are opposed to the proposed changes.

 

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