As Barack Obama has taken the charge of the US President’s office, expectations are high that he will work for stem cell research. As a step to this, his advisers suggest eliminating the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

While it’s past time to fully support stem cell science, the research should be protected by legislation, not just an executive order. He can eliminate the restrictions without Congress, as they stem from an executive order and not law.

But there are practical and symbolic reasons that suggest Congress should pass legislation lifting the restrictions, regardless of what the new president does.The most important reason for legislation is that it provides more stable protection than an executive order. Just as President Obama will be able to lift the restrictions in the absence of legislation, the next president could easily re-establish them, or even new undesirable regulations, and stave off congressional action through the veto.

The second reason for Congress to pass legislation is the signal it would send regarding bipartisanship, Washington’s new mantra after years of intense polarization. Both Republican and Democratic Congresses passed stem cell legislation, only to see President Bush veto the bills despite overwhelming support for the research from the American people. Passing this legislation and having President Obama sign it into law would signal the new direction the voters of this country has chosen, one that encourages reaching across the aisle to realize the promise of the future.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle