2009-03-19 / Editorial

Some campaign promises should not be kept

Make It Plain By Glenn Schicker

When President Obama signed the omnibus spending bill last week, he was criticized for breaking his pledge to veto legislation containing "earmarks," pork barrel spending attached by congressmen and senators to unrelated bills. There are a couple of other campaign promises I would have rather seen Obama break. Just as he signed the

spending bill without fanfare, hoping for little public attention, Obama late last month quietly directed the Department of Health and Human Services to begin overturning the "conscience rule" that penalized medical facilities that discriminate against health care providers who refuse to participate in abortion because of moral conviction. The president took his action at the same time he introduced his proposed federal budget, knowing the budget would attract most of the headlines.

A 30-day public comment period gives Americans a chance to see if an unnamed Obama aide was truthful in telling the Chicago Tribune, "We believe that this is a complex issue that requires a thoughtful process where all voices can be heard."

According to Catholic Online, White House staffers said the president's action is designed to clarify what services medical professionals can reasonably refuse their patients, not to take away their right to act based on conscience.

More publicly, Obama, in a ceremony at the University of Wisconsin-Madison last week, lifted restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research and directed the National Institutes of Health to draft new guidelines so the research could be done "responsibly." Some researchers have been chafing under Bush administration rules that allow federal funds only for research on existing "lines" of embryonic stem cells, which originated from "spares" frozen in in-vitro fertilization clinics. Many of those cells would have been discarded if they were not used in laboratories. Obama cast his lot with researchers who say cells from the existing "lines" may be of inferior quality, so a more diverse selection is needed.

Many researchers say expanded embryonic stem cell research holds hope of cures for Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases, strokes, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, burns and muscular dystrophy. Others say existing embryonic cell "lines" and adult stem cells would serve just as well. Opponents of abortion fear the new rules will lead to propagation of fetuses to harvest cells for research.

The Rev. Frank Page, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a member of the advisory board to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, told the Associated Press one of the faith-based office's four top priorities is to find ways to reduce the abortion rate. He also said a White House official assured him that Obama would not force health care providers to perform abortions against their consciences.

But the president's recent actions indicate he is inconsistent about keeping his promises. Obama's abortion-related decisions could force health care providers who believe life begins at conception to choose between breaking the law and violating the Hippocratic Oath, which physicians have subscribed to since the fourth century before Christ. The oath says, "…I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone."

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