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Our Tax Dollars Still Fund the Destruction of Embryos

In 2001, President George W. Bush limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research to already-existing lines of embryonic stem cells. While it wasn’t a complete ban on the research itself, it did prevent any further federally funded destruction of human life, and instead prioritized funding for research into adult stem cells.

At the time, he was accused of everything from being on the wrong side of science to banning all stem cell research to standing in the way of miracle cures. A central issue of the 2004 election, Bush’s Democratic opponent John Kerry even promised to change the Bush policy, so Christopher Reeves would be able to walk again.

To be clear, President Bush did not ban stem cell research. He didn’t even ban embryo-destructive research, or the private funding of embryo destructive research, or the funding of embryo-destructive research by states. He did not even ban federal funding of research on stem cell lines created from embryos that had already been destroyed. He only banned the federal funding of stem cell research that required destroying new embryos.

President Obama, almost immediately upon taking office, reversed Bush’s decision by executive order. Since 2009, the number of embryonic stem-cell lines approved for federally funded research has grown from 60 to 484. Embryos were destroyed to create those new stem cell lines, and our federal tax dollars paid for it.

Of course, even if all the wild dreams of life-saving treatments were realized by this research, it would not justify the taking of innocent life. Still, a decade later, not a single therapy has been derived using the stem cells from embryo destructive research. Dozens of therapies have been derived using the stem cells from non-embryonic sources, and well over one million patients have benefitted from adult stem cell treatments.

As it turns out, the promise that embryonic stem cells would be more effective because they have the potential to turn into a greater variety of cells, was simply false. What’s called “pluripotency” did not mean “more effective,” as was widely assumed. And that’s before a Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in turning adult skin cells into pluripotent stem cells. In other words, we are now able to derive cells with the same pluripotency as embryonic stem cells without destroying a single embryo.

Why then, has federal funding continued for embryo destructive research? Why has the current administration designated funding for the creation of 106 new stem cell lines acquired from the destruction of embryos? Since 2017, between $250 and $300 million of federal tax dollars has been designated to embryo destructive research. The amount this fiscal year is projected to rise to $321 million. This isn’t what pro-life citizens expected from an administration that has been, in so many other ways, so pro-life.

In early September, 94 members of Congress joined Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) in a letter urging President Trump to “issue an Executive Order to end taxpayer funding” for human embryonic stem cell research.  “Ending federal support for [embryonic stem-cell] research,” the letter states, “would not reduce NIH’s lifesaving research by one dollar, but would instead free up scarce resources for NIH to put toward promising research on adult and induced pluripotent stem cells.”

The fact is President Bush got this one exactly right. President Obama got this one exactly wrong. Reversing his reversal on the funding of embryo-destructive research should’ve been among the first orders of business in early 2017.

Come to to see Senator Wicker’s full letter to President Trump. Then, contact the White House and your congressional leaders. Let them know we must stop funding the destruction of human life.

Publication date: October 7, 2020

Photo courtesy: Drew Hays/Unsplash

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can't find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.

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