Bush Opposes Stem Cell Federal Funding, But Won’t Block
President Bush said Friday that federal money should not be used to support research using stem cells "derived from abortion," but stopped short of explicitly saying he would move to block the funding of such research, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. When asked by reporters whether the federal government should fund "fetal tissue and stem cell research from abortions," Bush replied, "I will let you know when I decide all policy decisions, but the answer to your question is no" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 1/27). While the AP/Nando Times reports that Bush "did not specifically address" the issue of using stem cells gathered from leftover embryos from fertility clinics, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer Friday repeated Bush's campaign position, saying the president "would oppose federally funded research for experimentation on embryonic stem cells that require live human embryos to be discarded or destroyed." Also echoing statements he has made previously, Bush said he favored culling stem cells from sources other than aborted fetuses or embryos. "I believe there's some wonderful opportunities for adult stem cell research. I believe we can find stem cells from fetuses that died a natural death, but I do not support research from aborted fetuses."
After Bush made his announcement -- the third "abortion-related" statement the administration made in its first week -- the AP/Times reports that aides to the president said "he was signaling his intent" to block federal funding of stem cell research using aborted fetuses or embryonic cells. Scientists have argued that these types of the cells hold the greatest promise for finding treatments for several serious conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease and spinal cord injuries, while abortion-rights opponents have objected to this research, contending that it involves the killing of human embryos (Fournier, AP/Nando Times, 1/26). Reacting to Bush's announcement, American Life League President Judie Brown "doubted" that the president would actually halt federal funding, noting that HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson is "very supportive of this kind of human embryo research." She added, "I don't know if the president is truly resolved to end it or just speak about it" (Cain, Washington Times, 1/27). The
AP/Houston Chronicle reports that privately funded research would not be affected by a federal ban; however, scientists say such a ban could slow the pace of research. "To revoke this at this point would really be damaging," Dr. John Gearhart, Johns Hopkins University researcher and "stem cell pioneer," said. The first federal grants supporting fetal tissue and embryonic stem cell research are "expected" to be announced by NIH this spring (Neergaard, AP/Houston Chronicle, 1/27).