A recent court ruling found that federal funding for embryonic stem cell research violates laws prohibiting the government from using taxpayer money for research that destroys an embryo. The ruling has sent the evening network news broadcasts reeling.
While ABC's “World News” briefly reported on the ruling Aug. 23, the NBC “Nightly News” and CBS “Evening News” have both aired reports suggesting that the ruling would end life-saving research – in spite of the fact the embryonic research can continue if privately funded, and federal funding of adult stem cell research is unaffected.
NBC's Robert Bazell reported Aug. 24 that the ruling “left a lot of researchers fairly stunned.” CBS's Wyatt Andrews called the ruling “a shock.” But was is really? Neither report mentioned that federal funding for embryonic stem cell research was severely restricted under the Bush administration, and was only widened by the Obama administration in July 2009.
Both reports also suggested that the ruling would end life-saving research. Bazell featured Dr. Chuck Murray, who is “in the delicate business of rebuilding severely damaged hearts and has tried adult and embryonic stem cells in his efforts.”
The segment featured a heart rebuilt from embryonic stem cells, and Bazell warned that “because of yesterday's court ruling, this research might have to stop by the end of the year.” But he didn't mention that the rest of Dr. Murray's research – on adult stem cells – is unaffected by the ruling.
On CBS, Andrews warned the ruling “could halt a half-million dollar research project both the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins have been using to study childhood leukemia” and another studying Down syndrome. But later in the report he noted that the National Institutes of Health has said that “more than 200 existing stem cell experiments could continue for now but may not be renewed.” Andrews did note adult stem cell research is unaffected by the ruling.
While both reports suggested the ruling would mean the end of promising research, they both alluded to the fact that the research will, in fact, continue – just not with taxpayer money. Private funding of embryonic stem cell research is not affected by the ruling. Both reports also included brief input from pro-life advocates and medical ethicists who praised the decision.