- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

President Bush's decision on embryonic stem cells has created a deep rift in the Republican Party and pushed the contentious issue to the courts, where opponents of federal funding for such research vow to force the federal government to halt all funding.
While top administration officials sought to portray the president's decision to allow research on 60 existing stem cell lines as keeping with his campaign pledge to oppose "experimentation on embryonic stem cells that require live human embryos to be discarded or destroyed," conservative Christian groups argue it does not.
"To grant federal funds for research even for those 60 stem lines already harvested violates federal law," said Samuel B. Casey, senior staff counsel for Human Life Advocates, a nonprofit group that has sued the federal government to stop embryonic stem-cell research.
"We will press litigation starting tomorrow. We are going to argue that those 60 stem cell lines require the destruction of embryos, which is a violation of the law," Mr. Casey said.
Congress in 1995 banned the use of federal money for research in which embryos are "destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death." Encouraged by the Clinton administration, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last August issued guidelines that let federally funded scientists bypass the law by obtaining embryonic stem cells from private laboratories.
"On behalf of our plaintiffs, we will now go back into court to gain a preliminary and permanent injunction against these illegal regulations," Mr. Casey said.
Some conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill also opposed the president's decision.
"He said during the campaign that he would not use taxpayer dollars for destructive embryo research," said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican. "In that sense, these embryos have been destroyed under previous efforts."
Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, was more blunt.
"While we all deeply sympathize with the desperate hopes of people struggling with debilitating illnesses, the technique used to create the stem-cell lines did not respect the sanctity of life. I'm worried that this initial research may ultimately serve as a pretext for vastly expanded research that does require the destruction of new living embryos," Mr. DeLay said.
However, Mr. Bush's decision has split social conservatives and the pro-life movement.
The nation's largest pro-life group praised the president's move.
"We are delighted that President Bush's decision prevents the federal government from becoming a party to any further killing of human embryos for medical experimentation," stated Laura Echevarria, director of Media Relations for the National Right to Life Committee.
"While National Right to Life mourns the loss of life for those embryos from whom stem cell lines have already been derived, nothing the National Right to Life Committee or President Bush can do can restore the lives of those embryos who have already died," she said.
"What I heard him say tonight I can live with," said the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a prominent religious activist.
Yet the president's decision has angered many Catholics and religious conservatives, who say he has betrayed them. "The trade-off he has announced is morally unacceptable," said Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "It allows our nation's research enterprise to cultivate a disrespect for human life."
"When Congress takes up this issue, as it surely will, this could give comfort and encouragement to those who will seek to expand embryonic research beyond that envisioned by the president," said Family Research Council President Ken Connor.
"This concession also puts the president on the wrong side of the principle. If 60 stem cell lines are morally acceptable, then why not 600 or 6,000? Furthermore, the president did not address the issue of unrestrained private-sector research. If killing embryos is unacceptable in publicly funded institutions, how can it be moral when carried out in private laboratories?" said Mr. Connor.
"Moral principles are not divisible. Killing human embryos for research is wrong in every instance. The president is only stepping deeper into the moral morass," he said.
Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate who now heads the Campaign for Working Families, said Mr. Bush has alienated his political base by breaking his campaign pledge.
"Those of us on the right-to-life side will be saddened because he will have conceded a major principle, which is that there are occasions when it's OK to take one life without their permission, to benefit somebody else," Mr. Bauer said.
"If they [allow federal funding] thinking it finesses the issue, they will have made a really terrible mistake. It has the potential of becoming over time a 'read my lips,'" the famous pledge made and later broken by Mr. Bush's father on enacting no new taxes — and which many say cost him a 1992 re-election.

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