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Stem Cell Decision Opens Doors to Life-Saving Research

Saperstein: “Federal support for embryonic stem cell research honors the integrity of human life by seeking to enhance the life and health of millions of Americans.”

Contact: Kate Bigam or Rachel Cohen
202.387.2800 |

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2009 – In response to President Obama’s Executive Order to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

I was honored to join President Obama today as he announced his decision to permit federal support for embryonic stem cell research. The enthusiasm among this diverse group of political, medical and religious leaders was as palpable as any signing I have attended. Opening new cell lines for study and providing funding opportunities for this research greatly increases the prospects of developing treatments and cures for debilitating conditions such as breast and prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and spinal cord injury. Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to improve drastically the lives of millions of Americans, and the President’s moving remarks underscored for me the importance of not subjugating scientific research to a political agenda. It is refreshing to have an administration committed to rooting its science policy in fact, no matter its ideology, rather than rooting its science policy in ideology, no matter the facts.

The Jewish value of pikuach nefesh teaches that preserving life and promoting health are among the most precious of our responsibilities. Our tradition requires that we pursue advances in science and medicine that have the potential to save and enhance lives, and that "when one delays in doing so, it is as if he has shed blood" (Shulchan Aruch, Yorei De’ah 336:1). Following these teachings, the Reform Movement has for many years been an outspoken advocate for stem cell research, working with leaders across the political spectrum. Our 2003 Resolution on Stem Cell Research outlines our strong support for both adult and embryonic stem cell research, and we were honored and inspired when Michael J. Fox joined us at our 2005 Consultation on Conscience and the 2007 URJ Biennial Convention, along with other speakers to discuss the importance of this work.

Federal support for embryonic stem cell research honors the integrity of human life by seeking to enhance the life and health of millions of Americans. Reform Jews and the American public at large understand and support what experts have strongly maintained: Embryonic stem cells continue to hold the most promise for breakthroughs in life-saving techniques. We strongly support the President’s decision to repeal the limits on embryonic stem cell research and now call on Congress to codify this Executive Order into law.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.

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