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Obama 's Remarks on Lifting the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ban

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Obama 's Remarks on Lifting the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ban

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Updated June 22, 2009
President Obama's Remarks:
Lifting the Federal Funding Ban on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

MARCH 9, 2009 at the WHITE HOUSE

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Thank you. Please, have a seat. Thank you much.

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.

We will also vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. 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.

Majority of Americans Support This Research

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.

Strict Guidelines for Responsible Stem Cell Research

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.

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