Bil Browning

Obama versus the Catholic Church

Filed By Bil Browning | March 09, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Barack Obama, health care reform, Planned Parenthood, stem cell research, stem cells

President Obama (God, I still love typing that!) signed the Scientific Integrity Memorandum and Stem Cell Executive Order this morning allowing researchers to use embryonic stem cells for research again. Former President Bush had forbidden research to appease his right-wing anti-abortion base.

I had to laugh when I saw the CNN subtitle for their piece on Obama's executive order - Obama Sides With Science. Since when is something as simple as good science rationale for doing the right thing? After the past eight years it's like waking up from a bad dream, isn't it? The "It's a human life!" argument always seemed ludicrous especially when compared to the lives that would be lost if we didn't investigate stem cells.

I'm reminded of the old saw about anti-abortion protesters being more concerned with children before they're born than after. Case in point? (Emphasis mine.)

Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of the coastal city of Recife announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well. "God's laws," said the archbishop, dictate that abortion is a sin and that transgressors are no longer welcome in the Roman Catholic Church. "They took the life of an innocent," Sobrinho told TIME in a telephone interview. "Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult. An adult may or may not be an innocent, but an unborn child is most definitely innocent. Taking that life cannot be ignored."

Obama's statement during the signing after the jump. What do you think about stem cells - any moral problems with it? Is a fetus really as important as a living human no matter their age? What do you think about charging a killer with two counts of murder if the victim is pregnant?



East Room
11:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please, have a seat. Thank you much. Well, I'm excited too. (Laughter.)

Today, with the executive order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers, doctors and innovators, patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: We will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. (Applause.) We will also vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. (Applause.) And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.

At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions: to regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair; to spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles; to treat Parkinson's, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them.

But that potential will not reveal itself on its own. Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research, from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit, and from a government willing to support that work. From life-saving vaccines, to pioneering cancer treatments, to the sequencing of the human genome -- that is the story of scientific progress in America. When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives.

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. 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.

It's a difficult and delicate balance. And many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research. And I understand their concerns, and I believe that we must respect their point of view.

But after much discussion, debate and reflection, the proper course has become clear. The majority of Americans -- from across the political spectrum, and from all backgrounds and beliefs -- have come to a consensus that we should pursue this research; that the potential it offers is great, and with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided.

That is a conclusion with which I agree. And that is why I am signing this executive order, and why I hope Congress will act on a bipartisan basis to provide further support for this research. We are joined today by many leaders who have reached across the aisle to champion this cause, and I commend all of them who are here for that work.

Ultimately, I cannot guarantee that we will find the treatments and cures we seek. No President can promise that. But I can promise that we will seek them -- actively, responsibly, and with the urgency required to make up for lost ground. Not just by opening up this new front of research today, but by supporting promising research of all kinds, including groundbreaking work to convert ordinary human cells into ones that resemble embryonic stem cells.

I can also promise that we will never undertake this research lightly. We will support it only when it is both scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted. We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse. And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society.

Now, this order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let's be clear: Promoting science isn't just about providing resources -- it's also about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about letting scientists like those who are here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient -- especially when it's inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda -- and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology. (Applause.)

By doing this, we will ensure America's continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. And that is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.

And that's why today I'm also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making -- (Applause.) -- to ensure that in this new administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That's how we'll harness the power of science to achieve our goals -- to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.

As we restore our commitment to science and expand funding for promising stem cell research, we owe a debt of gratitude to so many tireless advocates, some of whom are with us today, many of whom are not. Today, we honor all those whose names we don't know, who organized and raised awareness and kept on fighting -- even when it was too late for them, or for the people they love. And we honor those we know, who used their influence to help others and bring attention to this cause -- people like Christopher and Dana Reeve, who we wish could be here to see this moment.

One of Christopher's friends recalled that he hung a sign on the wall of the exercise room where he did his grueling regimen of physical therapy. And it read: "For everyone who thought I couldn't do it. For everyone who thought I shouldn't do it. For everyone who said it's impossible. See you at the finish line."

Christopher once told a reporter who was interviewing him: If you came back here 10 -- "If you came back here in 10 years, I expect that I'd walk to the door to greet you."

Now, Christopher did not get that chance. But if we pursue this research, maybe one day -- maybe not in our lifetime, or even in our children's lifetime -- but maybe one day, others like Christopher Reeves might.

There's no finish line in the work of science. The race is always with us -- the urgent work of giving substance to hope and answering those many bedside prayers, of seeking a day when words like "terminal" and "incurable" are potentially retired from our vocabulary.

Today, using every resource at our disposal, with renewed determination to lead the world in the discoveries of this new century, we rededicate ourselves to this work.

Before I sign, I want to just note the people who are on the stage with me. In addition to our outstanding Secretary of Energy, Secretary Chu; we also have Dr. Patricia Bath; we have Dr. H. Robert Horvitz; we have Dr. Janet Rowley; Dr. Harold Varmus, who's going to be the co-chair of my President's Council on Science; we've got Dr. Michael Bishop; and we also have Dr. Peter Agre. So these are an example of the outstanding scientists who we hope will guide us through this process in the years to come.

And with them standing beside me, I'd also like to invite some of my colleagues from Congress who have done just such extraordinary work to share in the limelight, because you guys are still going to have some work to do, and -- but it's because of the leadership of so many of you across partisan lines that we've been able to accomplish so much already.

So thank you very much, everybody. Let's go sign this. (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.) (Applause.)

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Obama needs IMPEACHED!
He's a FRAUD, a LIAR

Rick Elliott | March 10, 2009 2:10 AM

By early evening it starts--the tingling pain that crescendos to full blown pain that the happy pills can't touch. diabetic Neuropathy is an awful thing. You can be in good sugar control or not s good control and the insidious mess still does its damage night after night---and sometimes in the afternoon too.
Sometimes I just want to scream, or have a good cry, or even take all the medication for pain I have all at once and check out of this mess. My nerves stay frayed and I'm hard to live with. Hell I'm hard to live with myself.
What would you think of person who has no chance of ridding the pain committing suicide?

Do you think if the Cardinal found out the fetus was female, he'd have said "No problem"?

P.s., Lisa, your Pittsburgh accent is showing.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 10, 2009 6:32 AM

In perspective, this is a good thing, and easy. After all, how hard is it to be a smidgen to the left of Attila the Bush. Now it needs massive funding but that’s uncertain considering the trillions Obama is giving to the economy looters as in bailouts.

And here’s the perspective part. It also involves saving lives. Racists and islamophobes will disagree but I and most Americans think the lives of GIs and the lives of people who live in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are just as valuable as ours and far more valuable than the profit margins of Texaco and Haliburton.

Obama disagrees. That’s why he’s continuing to use the Bush policy of rendition, a camouflage for what street cops call kidnap-murder. It’s the same kind of disguise that misnamed German state sponsored mass murder during the Holocaust the ‘final solution.’

The theft of oil and gas resources is why Obama and his Secretary of State support zionist ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies against Palestinians. It’s why Obama continues rouge terrorist air attacks against Syria, Pakistan] and in time, Iran. It’s what’s behind his Nixonesque orders to keep troops in Iraq and to ramp up the murder of civilians in Afghanistan.

So, stem cell research is a valuable and easy step forward. It’ll save lives. Saving lives is why the antiwar movement wants to end the US oil/gas piracy in South Asia. It’s already taken the lives of over a million civilians and thousands of GI’s. Why does Obama prolong and escalate it. Don’t the oil companies already have enough blood money?

You forgot to mention the most important part of that story (in my opinion) - that the man who raped the 9 year old has not and will not be excommunicated. Yup, apparently life saving medical intervention is higher ranking on the sin factor than CHILD RAPE.

I would like to meet the person who would allow their 9 year-old 60 pound child to attempt to carry out a full term twin pregnancy. It would have killed her.

When are they going to commend the doctors for saving that girl's life?

Is it any coincidence that commend and condemn look so similar? I think not.

Thank you, Amy, for mentioning the girl's age. The Catholic Church's action in this situation is appalling. It is the sort of inhumane legalism which has long plagued Catholics.

Also worth mentioning, is that the rapist (her step-father) was specifically not excommunicated, even though much of the rest of her family was.

The cardinal's focus on "innocence" in that story is really showing. The man who raped the girl doesn't get excommunicated because that girl wasn't innocent. Obviously she was a slut if she was raped.

Bil, I'm sure you didn't mean to depict this signing's opponent as exclusively the Catholic Church when many denominations are in opposition to stem cell research. Also, while I understand the root of your elision of the two stories, they don't entirely match.

In any case, Obama's willingness to cut loose the churches on this issue is significant. His advisors must have told him that public opinion is in favor of science on this one. I am guessing that in his heart, he'd also like to sign things that are pro-gay, but his advisors are telling him that public opinion is not so strongly in favor of that. If he were really really heroic....

A poll taken by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and released last summer, shows that white Catholics support embryonic stem cell research by about 2:1
(results weren't given for black or Hispanic Catholics)