07 Nov Obama can easily reverse Bush stem cell policy
Madison, Wis. – To reverse the President Bush’s stem cell policy, which he has pledged to do, Barack Obama does not need an act of Congress or to have his aides prepare an executive order for his signature. He only needs to give a simple order to the director of the National Institutes of Health, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor.
Alta Charo, a Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law & Bioethics at the UW-Madison Law School, indicated that it would be very simple for President Obama to make federal funding available to more embryonic stem cell lines.
“Bush’s policy was just that, a policy; that is, a direction given to his NIH director,” Charo wrote in an e-mail. “So Obama can simply direct his NIH director to feel free to fund research on newer lines. No executive order or Congressional action needed.”
In August of 2001, less than three years after UW-Madison biologist James Thomson first derived stem cells form embryos, Bush restricted federal funding to existing lines of embryonic stem cells. No funding restrictions were placed on human adult and other types of stem cells.
Congress, in both 2006 and 2007, enacted legislation to reverse the Bush policy, but the President vetoed each bill.
Charo noted that the only time Congressional action would be needed is if the new President wanted to change the legislative prohibition on using federal funds to work directly on embryos (e.g. to derive new lines). That’s a reference to the so-called “Dickey-Wicker Amendment.”
“Remember,” Charo wrote, “the Bush policy is only about federally funding work on lines, not on embryos.”