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Groups laud Obama stem cell order

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups applauded President Obama’s decision to lift the executive order restricting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

"We wholeheartedly thank President Obama for his action on this important issue," Hadassah national president Nancy Falchuk said of Monday’s decision. "Those suffering from debilitating diseases and disorders for which stem cell research holds great promise now have a renewed sense of hope, and we are optimistic for the future of embyronic stem cell research."

Falchuk also urged Congress to "continue working on this issue" so that federal funds are "completely accessible" for such research.

The Orthodox Union and B’nai B’rith International also praised Obama. Nathan Diament, the OU’s public policy director, said that "the traditional Jewish perspective" emphasizes that "the potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life. Stem cell research is consistent with and serves these moral and noble goals.

"We urge the president and the leadership of the National Institutes of Health to ensure that robust ethical guidelines and oversight bodies are put in place to ensure this important research is conducted in the most appropriate fashion, balancing science with ethics," he said.

"Scientists have had to devote much of their time to figuring out how to do their research while complying with the restrictions,” said Rachel Goldberg, B’nai B’rith’s director of aging policy. “Unlocking federal dollars for research will knock down critical barriers our top researchers have faced and allow them to go back to what they do best — making discoveries.”

In 2001, President George W. Bush said federal funding for embryonic stem cell research could be used only on a small number of stem cell lines in existence at the time. In 2007 he vetoed a bill that would have allowed frozen embryos to be used for research.

Proponents of embryonic stem cell research believe it can be used to find cures for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, among other illnesses. Critics believe that destroying embryos while performing such research is equivalent to destroying human life.

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