Obama Issues Executive Order To Lift Some Federal Restrictions On Embryonic Stem Cell Research

President Obama on Monday at an event with Democratic and Republican lawmakers is expected to announce that he will reverse restrictions put in place by former President George W. Bush on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, in keeping with campaign promises to “separate science and politics,” the New York Times reports. Although the decision to reverse the restrictions is “not surprising,” it is “nonetheless of great interest, involving a long-controversial intersection of science and personal moral beliefs,” the Times reports (Stout/Harris, New York Times, 3/7). According to the Washington Post, Bush imposed restrictions in August 2001 that limited federal funding to studies involving stem cell lines that were already in existence — about 21 lines. By lifting the restrictions, Obama will “allow thousands of scientists to study hundreds” of stem cell lines that have been developed during the last eight years, the Post reports. Researchers also will be able to “dismantle cumbersome bureaucracies constructed to work around the constraints and let them exchange scientific ideas more easily,” the Post reports (Stein, Washington Post, 3/7).

Obama’s announcement that he intends to lift the restrictions “is not likely to lead to any immediate change in government policy,” the Times reports. It may take many months for NIH to develop new guidelines for the research, but advocates are expected “to push for the process to go as quickly as possible” so universities can have adequate time to submit grant proposals before September 2010, when NIH must give out the last of the $10.4 billion allotted to the agency in the economic stimulus law.

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