Thursday, March 19, 2009

U.S. Lawmakers Fight to Remove Law, Signed by Obama, against Federal Funding for Embryo Research

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 17, 2009 ( - While President Obama's executive order last week abolished former President George Bush's order forbidding taxpayer funds from being used for embryo-destructive research, the move did not address current U.S. law that bans federal funds from being used for the creation and destruction of embryos. Anti-life legislators are now working to repeal the pro-life law as the next logical step to completely free up funds for embryonic stem-cell research.

Just two days after signing the embryonic stem cell research executive order, Obama signed the annual omnibus appropriations bill, which since 1995 has included an amendment that forbids federal funds from facilitating the harm or destruction of life.

Known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment, the language states: "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes, or research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."

Obama's executive order only states that embryonic stem cell research would be allowed "to the extent permitted by law."

Peter Breen, an attorney with the pro-life Thomas More Society, told (LSN) that the Dickey-Wicker law prohibits the president from authorizing funds for research that creates or destroys embryos. However, because of the executive order, funds can now go to research on stem cells taken from embryos already destroyed via private funding. The Bush executive order had restricted such research to the cell lines of embryos destroyed before August 2001.

A White House official recently confirmed to the Cybercast News Service (CNS) that the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the government's medical research arm, will be drafting guidelines to perform research in compliance with the Dickey-Wicker law.

But now that President Obama has lifted the Bush ban, legislators have set to work to abolish the Dickey-Wicker language from next year's appropriations bill, thereby completely freeing up federal funds for embryo research.

Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Mike Castle, R-Del., are working to repeal the amendment.

"Dickey-Wicker is 13 years old now, and I think we need to review these policies," DeGette told the New York Times. The Times published an editorial Tuesday urging Congress to do away with the law.

Rep. Mike Castle, a Republican co-sponsor of Rep. DeGette's bill, said the law is "something we need to look at."

"That was passed in 1996, before we realized the full potential of embryonic stem cell research. Some researchers are telling us now that that needs to be reversed," he told the Congressional Quarterly on Monday.

But pro-life leaders are warning that removing the law would give free rein to scientists eager to create, manipulate, and destroy countless human lives.

On the same day that Obama signed his controversial executive order, Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee pointed out that Obama's order "sets the stage for an attack" on the Dickey-Wicker amendment, the removal of which would have dire consequences.

"Many researchers are already demanding federal support for research in which human embryos would be created for the specific purpose of research, through human cloning and other methods, and there was nothing in the President's remarks today to limit NIH to the use of so-called surplus embryos created in IVF clinics," said Johnson.

"Any member of Congress who votes for legislation to repeal this law is voting to allow federal funding of human embryo farms, created through the use of human cloning."

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) told the Times that he doubts the public would approve of discarding the law.

"I don't think it will fly because the movement in the country is in favor of life," said Smith. "For Congress to say that the new guinea pig will be human embryos, most Americans will find that highly offensive."

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