Advisers: Obama Close To Decision On Stem Cells

The president's advisers say he's close to a decision on lifting Bush-era restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Here in Washington, another reversal of Bush policy is apparently on the way, this one about embryonic stem cell research. A top White House aide said today that President Obama would soon issue an executive order lifting eight-year-old restrictions on federal funding for such research. NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

ALLISON KEYES: White House advisor David Axelrod was asked specifically on "Fox News Sunday" when an executive order on stem cell research would be issued.

(Soundbite of "Fox News Sunday")

Mr. DAVID AXELROD (Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama): The president is considering that right now. We'll be doing something on that soon, I think.

KEYES: President Obama promised during the campaign to remove the restrictions former President George W. Bush placed on stem cell research. In 2001, Bush said scientists doing stem cell research could only get federal funding if they used embryonic stem cell lines created before August 9 of that year.

It was seen by some as a nod to his religious beliefs and his conservative supporters, who see embryonic stem cell research as destroying potential life. Six years later, then-President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded federal funding for the research.

Former President GEORGE W. BUSH: Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us.

KEYES: But on the campaign trail, like this 2008 rally in Oregon, Mr. Obama said he would increase funding for stem cell research.

President BARACK OBAMA: The first step is to sign the bill that authorizes the use of additional stem cell lines that George Bush has vetoed twice now.

KEYES: After consultations with Democratic congressional leaders, it was decided that instead of waiting for legislation, President Obama would do it himself. During his inaugural address, the President made a strong statement about the importance of science to this administration.

President OBAMA: We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.

KEYES: Just last month, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the first clinical trial of embryonic stem cell therapy in humans. Embryonic stem cells extracted from embryos can develop into any type of cell in the body. Researchers hope they can be used to cure spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's Disease, among other things. Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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