- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush yesterday said he prays that he made the right decision about federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. A day earlier, he said his decision was influenced by his belief that an embryo is a human life, even when formed in a petri dish.
"I have made this decision with great care, and I pray it is the right one," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address. "At its core, this issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science."
The president was even more expansive in a lengthy interview Friday with ABC News, which released a transcript of the exchange late that evening. Mr. Bush told Claire Shipman he was pleased by the nation's positive reaction to his decision.
"I realize not everybody's gonna agree with it," he said at his ranch here. "But frankly, I was pleasantly surprised by the widespread approval of people from all across the spectrum."
He said America "understood what I was doing and appreciated the decision and seemed to be very supportive of it."
After months of mulling over the pros and cons, Mr. Bush announced in a televised address Thursday that tax dollars should not be used to kill human embryos for medical research. He did, however, endorse federal funding of stem cells that had already been harvested from embryos.
During yesterday's radio address, Mr. Bush said he opposed the further killing of embryos because it "destroys the potential for life." But he made further claims in his interview with ABC.
"I think life begins at conception," the president said.
"Even in a petri dish?" Mrs. Shipman asked. "Even with a few cells?"
"Yes, yes I believe that," Mr. Bush replied. "And that influenced my decision, of course."
Mr. Bush said his decision was not based on polls.
"You've got to understand something about me," he said. "I didn't consult a lot of pollsters and focus groups. The decision I made was not a political decision. The decision I made was the decision that I think is right for the country."
In the weeks leading up to his announcement, political experts and journalists predicted that Mr. Bush would be labeled a right-wing extremist if he opposed the destruction of human embryos. But since announcing his opposition, he said he has been surprised by the praise that has flowed in from unexpected quarters.
"I thought it was very important for me to go directly to the people so that my comments weren't issued through a filter," he said. "I didn't watch a lot of the TV afterwards.
"My wife reported to me that some people were saying some kind things," he added. "She was surprised that they did, because they were not necessarily in agreement on the issue going in."
Mr. Bush seemed pleased that his announcement has prompted many Americans to ponder the issue for themselves.
"Yesterday I was working on the ranch with some guys who were helping build one of the homes here, and they brought up the subject," the president said. "They told me their church was praying for me. Here are some guys that are hammering nails, talking about life, the creation of life," he marveled.
Mr. Bush spent months soliciting opinions from people ranging from Pope John Paul II to low-level aides in the White House. Yet he insisted he never found the decision "agonizing."
"I wouldn't say 'agonizing,'" the president qualified. "I mean, 'agonizing' kind of gives this kind of lonely image of a lonely figure cloistered in the upstairs of the White House, pacing back and forth and searching the soul. That's not the way I am. I was very comfortable during the process."

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