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Hadassah urges action on stem cells

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A pro-stem cell research coalition which includes Hadassah urged President Obama to act quickly on the issue.

In a letter to the president, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research said it was encouraged by a media report that Obama told a member of Congress it was a "guarantee" he would sign an executive order to lift the current federal restrictions on the funding of embryonic stem-cell research. But they were concerned that Obama also said he wanted to coordinate the order with legislation.

"We strongly urge you to issue a straightforward Executive Order that simply reverses President Bush’s policy and calls on the National Institutes of Health to issue appropriate guidelines," the letter reads. "Follow-on legislation that codifies an Executive Order may be appropriate but, in the interest of timing and clarity of policy, the two do not need to be linked."

While Obama has not even been in the White House for three full weeks, Hadassah Washington Action office director Marla Gilson said that with all the "competing interests" for the president’s time, there’s a concern that this issue could get lost.

The letter is some "friendly encouragement," she said. "We think this is an easy one."

Gilson noted that since an executive order can be rescinded by another president, passing congressional legislation is important. But with Congress focused on the economy at the present time, it is not clear when such a bill could be passed and does not need to accompany the order.

"The longer we wait, the more people suffer," she said.

The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research includes more than 100 patient organizations, universities, scientific societies and foundations.

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