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Be Careful What You Wish For

Access to federal money may be mixed blessing for embryonic research.
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While pro-life groups lamented President Obama's March executive order allowing federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research, some scientists now say the move could ironically result in less funding for such research.

After former President George W. Bush placed restrictions on federal funding in 2001, state governments like California and philanthropists like Bill Gates offered funds for embryonic research. But Obama's decision may have decreased the incentive to give money, even though the total amount of federal dollars allocated for biomedical research remains the same.

"A number of folks, especially because of the hard economic times, are going to say, 'If the federal government is going to be paying for that, we're going to pull out,'?" said David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council and a former life sciences professor at Indiana State University.

After Bush set restrictions in 2001, eight states allowed money to be spent on the research: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. But as government leaders face large budget deficits, states like New Jersey are cutting planned spending on stem-cell research. California voters approved $3 billion in funding over 10 years, but the state is struggling to sell the necessary bonds.

After Obama announced his decision, Georgia and Oklahoma lawmakers began considering bills that would limit the research, and Texas and Mississippi lawmakers are considering blocking state funding. This comes as endowments and philanthropists are experiencing deep losses in their market portfolios due to the financial crisis.

As embryonic stem-cell researchers now turn to the federal government for funds, they will ...

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