Saturday, March 07, 2009

Stem Cell Research Gets Boost from Obama

With a few well-placed strokes of his presidential pen, Pres. Barack Obama has been methodically expunging some of his predecessor’s ill-conceived pen strokes. George W. Bush had a self-conceived moral imperative to make sure all citizens of America followed his own narrow view of what is right and wrong. Now, Obama is setting things right.

There are people in this country who believe that abortion is so wrong that the U.S. should not help fund programs in developing nations that allow abortions or even counsel women about them. There are people in this country who believe that the human soul begins as soon as a man’s sperm touches a woman’s egg so that using a tiny ball of cells grown from that union to harvest stem cells is tantamount to murder. And everyone is certainly entitled to his opinion, no matter how archaic and naive it is. But when those opinions, based only on the dogma of a certain few, become the law of the land it becomes a national travesty.

Congress tried to set things right twice, by passing bipartisan legislation that would allow embryonic stem cell funding. Bush, in his usual obstinate and self-important manner, vetoed both attempts. Now it’s up to Obama to fix Bush’s mistakes.

Obama has already overturned two of Bush’s executive orders on abortion issues. Now he is set to fulfill another campaign promise to overturn the former president’s hamstring on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Bush has set this nation eight years behind the rest of the world in medical progress due to his 2001 ban on most federal funding for such research.

Stem cells can be made to grow into any kind of cell. Researchers are working on ways to grow them into pancreatic tissue that produce insulin. Implants of such cells could virtually cure type 1 diabetes. Other disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries could also be helped by growing stem cells into nervous tissue. Although stem cells can be derived from other sources, embryonic stem cells offer the best hope for finding these cures.

The vast majority of Americans, according to most polls, support embryonic stem cell research. But the vocal few who had Bush’s ear during his two terms as president had their way. The sad fact is that their dogmatic opinions may have affected the lives of thousands of other Americans.

Dogma, by definition, is the process of treating a belief or opinion, generally a religious one, as though it were proven fact. The real facts are that nobody really knows at what point a human soul is created. Nobody really knows for sure if humans even have souls. These are religious beliefs that not everyone subscribes to. To make laws based on dogma serves no one except the minority who cling to those beliefs.

If the ultraconservatives in this country find it repulsive that research is being done on embryos, then they can decline any medical care that they may need that is derived from such research. Nobody is forcing them to participate in the process. Their rights have not been abridged. But they must never be allowed again to deprive others from deriving benefits from stem cell research.

The rights of the majority have been trampled by the dogma of the minority for far too long. And now, there is someone in the Oval Office that will not allow antiquated dogma to have a controlling interest in the policies of this country.

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