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Obama Lifts Federal Funding Ban on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

President Obama ended the ban on federal funding of stem cell research in a White House ceremony Monday. Video by AP

Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the House Republican whip, said in a statement that "today's action is about forcing taxpayers to fund ethically troublesome -- and unproven -- research that destroys life."

"Nearly every American supports continued stem cell research, and Republicans laud the miraculous innovations made in ethical and sensible adult stem cell research," he said. "Unfortunately, today the administration wasted an opportunity to unite our country around these ethically and scientifically sound innovations by allowing the use of taxpayer money for embryo-destructive stem cell research, which millions of Americans find morally reprehensible."

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in January, 59 percent of adults surveyed said they supported loosening the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Forty percent of Republicans supported reversing the ban.

"I think this research holds out the greatest scientific promise right now than that of any other field," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), an opponent of abortion rights who attended the signing ceremony. "There are some deeply held moral concerns involved. On the other hand, I take the position that being pro-life means caring for the living as well as the unborn."

In his remarks, Obama acknowledged that "many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research." He said, "As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and to work to ease human suffering."

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who co-authored legislation twice vetoed by Bush that would have expanded the federal role in stem cell research, said the House would move "quickly" to pass a bill in the hopes of turning Obama's executive order into law.

DeGette also said she has talked with the House Democratic leadership about beginning a review of other limits on how federal money can be spent on embryonic stem cell research. One 13-year-old rule, known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, prohibits researchers from using public money to create human embryos.

"We need to take a new look at that amendment and put a number of other issues on the table," DeGette said.

Staff writers Perry Bacon Jr. and Chris Cillizza and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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