By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - As promised, President Barack Obama today signed an executive order opening up the restrictions on taxpayer funding for embryo-destroying stem cell research (ESCr).

Obama had toyed with the idea of opening ESCr funding though the legislative process before settling on the use of executive order.

"In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values," said Obama.  "In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research - and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."

The president also signed a memorandum directing the development of a strategy "for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making" and "to ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science."

Obama also said that cloning "for human reproduction" would not be allowed by the government, saying that it is "dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society."

(To view the executive order, go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Removing-Barriers-to-Responsible-Scientific-Research-Involving-Human-Stem-Cells/)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. government’s medical research agency, is expected to provide final guidelines for the research within 120 days, after which point funding may begin. 

The executive order came only days after nine Congressmen urged congressional leaders to abandon embryonic stem-cell research, which has proved dangerous and yielded no therapeutic results.  Instead, they said, the government should invest in adult stem cells, a field that has shown enormous potential and already cured or treated scores of ailments.

"Why persist in the dehumanizing of nascent human life when better alternatives exist, alternatives that work on both ethics grounds and efficacy grounds?" asked Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, on the House floor Wednesday. 

A chorus of religious, bioethics, and pro-life leaders condemned today’s order for ignoring both ethical concerns and sound science.

"President Obama’s new executive order on embryonic stem cell research is a sad victory of politics over science and ethics," said Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. 

"This action is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested. It also disregards the values of millions of American taxpayers who oppose research that requires taking human life. Finally, it ignores the fact that ethically sound means for advancing stem cell science and medical treatments are readily available and in need of increased support."

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, called the move "politics at its worst."  "Embryonic stem cell research is a destructive and outdated method that has become a holy grail to political and scientific activists who seek no moral restraints on their work," said Wright. 

"President Obama’s order places the worst kind of politics above ethics - politics driven by hype makes overblown promises, fuels the desperation of the suffering, and financially benefits those seeking to strip morality from science."

The National Catholic Bioethics Center today lamented the move, saying that the government "cannot single out certain lives as somehow uniquely suited for harmful or destructive research."

"Science makes it clear that from fertilization a new human being exists, distinct from the father or mother, with his or her own internal principle directed toward continuing development towards adulthood. ... Providing public funding to support research on cells obtained through the destruction of human beings, especially at their most vulnerable stages, is an affront to the dignity of all persons, and beneath the moral stature of the United States of America."

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, accused Obama of ignoring social justice and human rights: "Medical science has confirmed that an embryo is human life regardless of President Obama’s lack of education and understanding of the issue.

"Mr. Obama has said in the past it is ‘above his pay grade’ to know when human life begins," said Mahoney.  "I would suggest as part of the billions spent on the stimulus package that the President’s salary be raised so he could further his adult education to understand the basic facts of biology and social justice."

See related LifeSiteNews.com articles:

Obama to Sign Executive Order Monday Opening Public Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/mar/09030611.html

Destroying Human Embryos Not Only Unethical, but Unnecessary: Congressmen
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/mar/09030606.html

"Embryos are Humans" Says U.S. Government Report on Stem Cell Research
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/jan/07011009.html

Adult Stem Cell Treatment Leaves College Student Free of Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/feb/09022407.html

Fetal Stem Cell Injections Create Brain Tumors in Israeli Boy
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/feb/09022003.html

Amid Media Excitement, Embryonic Stem Cell Trial Far Behind Adult Stem Cells, Says Expert
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jan/09012605.html