Monday's White House ceremony lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research marked a major departure from the Bush administration and a turning point in the intersection of science and politics.
With the stroke of a pen, the president pledged, in his own words, to "lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research," "vigorously support scientists who pursue this research," and "aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield."
But two of the main principles who have long fought for the lifting of the ban, Ron Reagan and his mother, former first lady Nancy Reagan, were not in attendance. Their absence was noted by at least one observer who wondered whether the non-inclusion of such fierce proponents of stem cell research -- Ron called the country to arms on the issue during his Democratic National Convention address in 2004 -- constituted a "diss."
In an email to the Huffington Post, Ron confirmed that he and his mother were "not invited" to the event and added that his mother, at 88 years-old, "doesn't do much traveling" anyways. Nevertheless, the former first family had high praise for the president's actions, with Nancy Reagan's office issuing the following statement:
"I'm very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward. I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them, and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers.
Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases - and soon. As I've said before, time is short, and life is precious."
Added Ron, when asked for his reaction to Monday's decision: "Yes [I'm] pleased -- though, as the New York Times points out, the larger issue of research using embryos is being left to Congress. One point that never seems to be brought up is the distinction between IVF embryos -- unique genetic entities created by introducing sperm to egg -- and the 'embryos' created in a lab -- a skin cell placed in a donor egg, the nucleus of which has been removed to create a cellular clone of the skin cell donor. Somehow, many members of Congress have been induced to assign greater moral value to the latter. This makes little sense. Just goes to show that scientific illiteracy among elected officials can be problematic."
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