Bioethicist: Obama Letting Congress Kill Bush Stem Cell Policy Smacks of Politics

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 20, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Bioethicist: Obama Letting Congress Kill Bush Stem Cell Policy Smacks of Politics

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 20
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Barack Obama has apparently made the decision to let Congress do the heavy lifting when it comes to toppling President Bush’s pro-life protections on stem cell research. One leading bioethicist says the decision is a political way for Obama to stave off some criticism.

As has reported, Obama said he may let Congress approve a bill forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research.

“Well, if we can do something legislative then I usually prefer a legislative process because those are the people’s representatives,” Obama said.

“So we’re still examining what things we’ll do through executive order,” Obama continued. “But I like the idea of the American people’s representatives expressing their views on an issue like this.”

Wesley J. Smith, a prominent bioethicist who is an author and attorney, says he is surprised that Obama may not rescind President Bush’s order — calling it a "dramatic reversal of an earlier promise."

He said letting Congress do the dirty work "will take time to accomplish."

"On the other hand, it would mean that his fingerprints would not be on the deed. Good politics, I think, because he would get credit for signing the bill but not blame for opening the door," Smith added.

Smith agreed with the idea that the change would be longer lasting by signing a Congressional bill rather than overturning the policy alone.

"It can lead to a far more radical research license than could be done by the President alone. But legislation is never totally predictable," he said.

Because Congress would need time to craft and approve a bill, Smith says he hopes pro-life advocates can educate Obama about the issue — especially his erroneous view that embryonic stem cells will help certain patients.

The delay "can also open up opportunities for opponents to educate the President (whose comment about Alzheimer’s shows that he needs it) and the public — such as the incredible breakthroughs happening with adult stem cells and the potential of ‘alternative methods’ to heal the breach that this issue has caused to the body politic."

Embryonic stem cell research is the science that involves the destruction of human life and has never helped any patients suffering from various diseases or conditions.

The use of adult stem cells has already helped patients suffering from dozens of medical problems to either cure or help offset the complications from them.

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