While Nancy Reagan is urging the Bush administration to reverse its opposition to federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, a document has surfaced indicating President Reagan would not have supported his wife’s campaign.
The issue has gathered more attention in the wake of Reagan’s death June 5 after suffering for 10 years from Alzheimer’s, a disease some researchers hope can be addressed through breakthroughs in the use of stem cells.
President Bush opposes government support of the embryonic research because it involves the destruction of human life, and a draft executive order Reagan worked on shortly before he left office indicates his policy would have been the same.
The order was to “continue and broaden the  moratorium on NIH [National Institute of Health] grants for certain types of fetal experimentation,” according to Charles Colson, the former Nixon aide who now leads a Christian ministry, Prison Fellowship.
Colson, in his daily radio commentary, said he received the document from William Clark, Reagan’s national security adviser and close personal friend.
“Reagan took a clear stand against research that would harm or destroy ‘any living child in utero,’ in all stages of development in which scientists were then able to experiment on them,” Colson said.
Clark insists Reagan clearly was opposed to funding embryo research.
Writing recently in the New York Times, he said, “After the charter expired for the Departments of Health, Education and Welfare’s ethical advisory board – which in the 1970s supported destructive research on human embryos – [Reagan] began a de facto ban on federal financing of embryo research that he held to throughout his presidency.”
The presidential adviser also noted Reagan, in his 1993 speech known for it’s “evil empire” reference, “spoke strongly against the denegration of innocent human life.”
“And [Reagan] favored bills in Congress that would have given every human being – at all stages of development – protection as a person under the 14th Amendment,” Clark said.
Reagan also favored a Human Life Amendment defining life as beginning at conception.
In addition, Clark notes, Reagan “would have asked the marketplace question: If human embryonic research is so clearly promising as the researchers assert, why aren’t private investors putting [their] money into it, as they are in adult stem-cell research?”
Researchers, according to an Insight magazine report published by WND, are engaged in a “stem-cell war,” a deliberate effort to downplay the proven value of adult stem cells to attract more attention to the potential of embryonic stem cells.
Insight says while activists such as spinally injured actor Christopher Reeve argue that if not for Bush administration and congressional restrictions on embyonic stem-cell funding he might be walking in a few years, there are no approved treatments – and no human trials – involving embryonic stem cells.
Each of the promising therapies and experiments to date has involved adult stem cells, which include cells found in nonadult tissue such as umbilical cords, placentas and amniotic fluid.
Prior to Reagan’s death, Colson notes, 58 U.S. senators signed a letter asking Bush to remove restrictions he implemented last year on federal funding of the embryo research. Now many, including Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, are pointing to Reagan’s long illness and death as justification.
“It’s certainly understandable that Nancy Reagan, after the terrible ordeal she’s been through, might look with favor on any possibility of defeating Alzheimer’s,” Colson said in his commentary.
“It’s even understandable that others, misled by extravagant promises and blind to what’s really going on, are grasping at the same straw,” he continued. “But they ought to argue their case on its merits – what few merits it has – and not enlist in their cause the name of Ronald Reagan, who stood foursquare against the exploitation and destruction of human life in any stage.
“That is one legacy he would have never wanted to leave.”