Bush OKs Partial Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research
President Bush last night said he would allow federal funding for experiments involving stem cells already derived from embryos but not for research that would cause the destruction of further embryos, the Los Angeles Times reports. In announcing the decision during his first prime-time address as president, Bush said, "This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos." Last year, NIH announced that it would accept applications for stem cell projects that involved cells from taken frozen embryos developed in fertility treatments that were no longer needed. But shortly after taking office, Bush put that plan on hold and began his review of the policy (Zitner/Chen, Los Angeles Times, 8/10). During last night's address, Bush said, "While we must devote enormous energy to conquering disease, it is equally important that we pay attention to the moral concerns raised by the new frontier of human embryo stem cell research. Even the most noble ends do not justify any means" (Henry, Houston Chronicle, 8/10). Bush said of the existing 60 cell lines drawn from embryos, "Leading scientists tell me research on these 60 lines has great promise that can lead to breakthrough therapies and cures." The "life-and-death decision" has already been made to destroy those embryos, Bush noted (Los Angeles Times, 8/10). He continued: "I have made this decision with great care and I pray it is the right one" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/10).
The Washington Post reports that Bush's decision is "essentially the most restrictive use of federal money the administration could have permitted short of a ban" (Goldstein/Allen, Washington Post, 8/10). The decision does not affect private sector embryonic stem cell research (Seelye, New York Times, 8/10). As part of his decision, Bush also will appoint a presidential-level council that will monitor stem cell research developments. In addition, Bush called for "aggressive funding" of research on stem cells derived from adults, umbilical cords and other sources. The government will spent $250 million this year on such research, Bush said (Wall Street Journal, 8/10). The financial effect Bush's statement will have on embryonic stem cell research is "unclear," the New York Times reports (New York Times, 8/10).