Bush To Veto Measure for Expanded Funding for Stem Cell Research
President Bush on Wednesday plans to veto a bill (S 5) that would allow federal funding for research using stem cells derived from human embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients, Bush administration officials said, the Washington Post reports.
The president also plans to issue an executive order that will require HHS in the next three months to develop guidelines for funding research on creating "medically useful" stem cells without destroying embryos, according to officials (Fletcher/Brown, Washington Post, 6/20).
Federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research currently is allowed only for research using embryonic stem cell lines created on or before Aug. 9, 2001, under a policy announced by Bush on that date.
The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 passed the House 247-176 and the Senate 63-34. Several House Republicans who voted against the measure cited new research reported earlier this month by three independent teams of scientists. The teams said they have developed experimental approaches using the skin cells of mice to create embryonic stem cells without creating or destroying embryos (California Healthline, 6/8).
White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said that Bush will outline a program that could allow research that creates additional "pluripotent" stem cells, the AP/Forbes reports (Riechmann, AP/Forbes, 6/20).
Pluripotent stem cells can develop into all types of tissues in the body and have the potential to repair and restore tissue (California Healthline, 5/9/06).
Two senior Bush administration officials said the president also plans to reconfigure the embryonic stem cell lines currently eligible for federally funded research as the "human pluripotent stem cell registry."
According to the New York Times, Bush administration officials said the White House also has been encouraged by recent stem cell research using amniotic fluid and embryos that had been declared "clinically dead."
The administration officials said the president wants NIH to take advantage of recent research that has the potential to "sidestep the ethical controversies" surrounding embryonic stem cell research, the Times reports.
According to the Times, the executive order does not include funding and appears to be "largely symbolic" (Stolberg, New York Times, 6/20).
Bush administration officials said the order is less a change in policy than a "kick in the pants" to make it clear that federal funding for stem cell research is available for stem cell research, the Post reports.
"This disabuses us of this notion that there is this fundamental conflict between science and ethics," Karl Zinsmeister, Bush's head domestic policy adviser, said about the recent research.
Fratto said that Bush "supports and encourages stem cell research -- including using embryonic stem cell lines -- as long as it does not involve creating, harming or destroying embryos" (Washington Post, 6/20).
John Gearhart, a stem cell researcher at Johns Hopkins University, said, "It is not an alternative for embryonic stem cell research because some of these alternative procedures still have ethical issues associated with them," adding that no one has figured out when an embryo can be declared clinically dead.
White House officials said federal agencies would have to come up with the standards. Douglas Melton, a stem cell researcher at Harvard University, said that research using skin cells, which has not been replicated in humans, "should be pursued just as actively as we pursue human embryonic stem cell research ... but it doesn't need any special attention from the White House. All we've ever asked is to let human embryonic stem cell research vie for public funding like all other research" (New York Times, 6/20).