POLITICS - President-elect Barack Obama could reverse some of President Bush's most controversial executive orders, including restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, shortly after taking office on January 20th 2009.
Two other executive orders from George W. Bush, one dealing with a "gag order" on international aid organizations regarding birth control pills, condom usage and abortion and the other with oil and gas drilling on federal lands are also are receiving increased scrutiny.
BUSH'S EXECUTIVE ORDERS
New presidents often use executive orders to put their stamp on Washington quickly. Unlike laws, which require months to complete and the consent of Congress, presidents can use their executive authority to order federal agencies to quickly implement new policies (or reverse old ones). Obama's transition team is reviewing hundreds of Bush's executive orders.
Stem Cell Research
Obama is expected to use his executive authority to reverse Bush's order limiting the types of embryonic stem cell research that can receive federal tax dollars. Health advocates for those suffering from a host of diseases (including diabetes, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries) are eagerly awaiting the Bush-era restrictions to be lifted.
In August 2001, Bush barred the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells other than that using 60 cell lines existing when he signed the executive order.
Researchers say the ban has limited their progress and want the opportunity to create new stem cells from human embryos. On his campaign website, Obama said he supports the creation of new stem cells from embryos created for in vitro fertilization treatments that would otherwise be discarded.
NOTE: Approx. half of the world's facilities capable of doing stem cell research are in the United States. Allowing the USA to participate in stem cell research will effectively double the speed at which people can discover new cures for various diseases.
Other controversial Bush measures Obama is expected to overturn are related to abortion and family planning. United States family planning groups such as Planned Parenthood said they expect Obama to overturn the "Mexico City" policy, first instituted by the Reagan administration. The policy prevents taxpayer dollars from funding groups that promote planned pregnancy and pro-choice.
President Clinton dropped the order, but Bush re-implemented it and expanded the policy to ensure State Department funding does not go to family planning organizations that give advice about condoms, birth control pills, abstinence and abortion.
Obama's administration also could overturn the Bush administration policy of banning funding to organizations such as the U.N. Population Fund that operate in countries like China that have overpopulation problems and adheres to the "one child" policy.
Oil Drilling in National Parks
Obama's team is also reviewing Bush's order that lifted restrictions on oil drilling on fragile federal lands in Utah. Environmental groups decried Bush's decision when he opened the lands to oil exploration.
One set of executive orders that may take longer to overturn pertains to detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison. Obama has said he wants to close the prison, but will have to make decisions about what to do with the prison's 255 inmates.
Reversing Bush's executive orders would be an immediate way for Obama to show that a new era has begun in Washington.
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