Late last week, the Obama Administration – through the National Institutes of Health, issued its preliminary proposal for regulations governing federally funded embryonic stem cell research.
These regulations will work to implement the policy change President Obama announced on March 9, and the Orthodox Union welcomed, which started the process of reversing the ban on federal funding for stem cell research put in place by President Bush.
Even with President Obama opening the field to federal financial support, the proposed Guidelines (which will be published in the Federal Register later this week and open to public comment before being finalized) seek to structure the research in a way that is sensitive to ethical concerns surrounding this research. Thus, these draft Guidelines would allow funding for research using only those human embryonic stem cells that were derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and were no longer needed for that purpose. It will not allow federal funds to support creating embryos for the sole purpose of research.
What is troubling to us is that the reactions from some quarters to this announcement are negative. These critics seem to believe that anything less than entirely unfettered federal funding for this research is an affront to science. This is wrongheaded.
While the Orthodox Union has long supported and advocated for federal funding for stem cell research, we have just as vigorously insisted that the moral and ethical concerns surrounding this research be accounted for and that it thus be conducted under strict ethical guidelines and with close oversight. The NIH Guidelines appear to be a step in that very necessary and positive direction and should be welcomed by people on all sides of the debate.