Obama’s stem cell qualifiers…clarifying?

NYT Obama newser.jpgIn his press conference last night President Obama took a question from The Washington Times’ John Ward about his controversial stem cell decision last month–an announcement that left me, and many others, rather cold.

Obama’s response was intriguing in that he grappled more humanly with the ethics of the issue, and seemed to speak in terms of using only embryos that are “leftover” from fertility treatments. The earlier announcement was, like his bank plan, mainly a statement of principles, with the devilish details left to the National Institutes of Health to work out. I wonder if the Administration is re-thinking what it wants those details to look like.


In any case, here is the relevant excerpt from the transcript:

JOHN WARD: In your remarks on stem cell research earlier this month, you talked about a majority consensus in determining whether or not this is the right thing to do, to federally fund embryonic stem cell research.

I’m just wondering, though, how much you personally wrestled with the morality or ethics of federally funding this kind of research, especially given the fact that science so far has shown a lot of progress with adult stem cells, but not a lot with embryonic?

OBAMA: OK. No, I think it’s–I think it’s a legitimate question. I, I wrestle with these issues every day.


As I mentioned to–I think in an interview a couple of days ago, by the time an issue reaches my desk, it’s a hard issue. If it was an easy issue, somebody else would have solved it and it wouldn’t have reached me.

Look, I believe that it is very important for us to have strong moral guidelines, ethical guidelines, when it comes to stem-cell research or anything that touches on, you know, the issues of possible cloning or issues related to, you know, the human life sciences.

I think those issues are all critical, and I’ve said so before. I wrestle with it on stem cell; I wrestle with it on issues like abortion.

I think that the guidelines that we provided meet that ethical test. What we have said is that, for embryos that are typically about to be discarded, for us to be able to use those in order to find cures for Parkinson’s or for Alzheimer’s or, you know, all sorts of other debilitating diseases, juvenile diabetes, that, that it is the right thing to do.


And that’s not just my opinion. That is the opinion of a number of people who are also against abortion.

Now, I am glad to see progress is being made in adult stem cells. And if the science determines that we can completely avoid a set of ethical questions or political disputes, then that’s great.

I have, I have no investment in causing controversy. I’m happy to avoid it if that’s where the science leads us. But what I don’t want to do is predetermine this based on a very rigid ideological approach, and that’s what I think is reflected in the executive order that I signed.

WARD: I meant to ask–just to follow up–do you think that scientific consensus is enough to tell us what we can and cannot do?


OBAMA: No. I think there’s, there’s always an ethical and a moral element that has to be, be a part of this. And so, as I said, I, I don’t take decisions like this lightly. They’re ones that I take seriously, and, and I respect people who have different opinions on this issue.

But I think that this was the right thing to do and the ethical thing to do. And as I said before, my hope is, is that we can find a mechanism, ultimately, to cure these diseases in a way that gains 100 percent consensus. And we certainly haven’t achieved that yet, but I think on balance this was the right step to take.


Comments read comments(3)
post a comment
Charles Cosimano

posted March 25, 2009 at 1:19 pm

30 years ago there was a huge fuss over recombinant DNA. Now the insulin I take every day is made from it. The moment there is a cure for anything from embryonic stem cells, and no doubt there will be one, all of the ethical objections will go into the ashcan of history, along with those who hold to them.

report abuse


posted March 25, 2009 at 4:37 pm

The fact that Obama said “I wrestle with it on stem cells, and I wrestle with it on issues like abortion” is enough for me to say that there is a heart open to change and God’s love.
There is a human being who can, and will, participate in dialogue and policy decision-making with people who he may not agree with. I call that a reasonable man … and de facto out of the realm of hated despots and “the most pro-abortion President” in our history which are two of the common election-rhetoric euphemisms for our President.
Pray. Recognize the changes and the openness when it is there. I do not cry victory, but I do say this is God at work.

report abuse


posted March 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm

There is a group of physicians, patients and other interested people working together to get treatment with adult stem cells legalized in the U.S. as it should be. Please ask your family and friends to sign up (“JOIN”), and get as many doctors to sign up as well.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!   ...

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks... recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That ...

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored ...

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, ...

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's ...

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.