- The Washington Times - Monday, August 13, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush will not expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research beyond existing stem-cell lines, regardless of how scientifically valuable such research might prove, administration officials said yesterday.
Mr. Bush himself hardened his opposition to the further destruction of human embryos yesterday, declaring in a New York Times op-ed column that "it is unethical to end life in medical research."
"We do not end some lives for the medical benefit of others," the president wrote from his ranch. "For me, this is a matter of conviction: a belief that life, including early life, is biologically human, genetically distinct and valuable."
It was the second time since Thursday, when he gave a televised address to the nation, that Mr. Bush outlined his beliefs about when life begins. Although he has long maintained that life begins at conception, he revealed on Friday that this includes embryos created in petri dishes. Yesterday, he went a step further by explicitly stating that such life "is biologically human."
Although some Democrats and liberal Republicans in Congress vowed yesterday to expand federal funding of stem-cell research, several administration officials said Mr. Bush would stick to his decision to fund research only on 60 stem-cell lines from embryos that have already been destroyed.
"This president will not equivocate," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson on NBC's "Meet the Press." "He made a very strong statement on that."
White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., appearing on "Fox News Sunday," added: "We think there's more than enough lines for this embryonic stem-cell research to go forward."
Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Mr. Bush went too far by approving federal funding of stem cells from embryos that have already been killed. Appearing on ABC's "This Week," he called the existing stem-cell lines "ill-gotten goods."
"For the government to allow funding for this experiment makes the government complicit in what we consider to be wrongdoing," Bishop Fiorenza said.
But Mr. Thompson, who is Catholic, emphasized that there is nothing immoral about trying to fight diseases through research on stem cells if the decision to kill the embryos is already in the past
"Are we just going to throw them in the garbage can and say there's nothing that can be done on them? You can't put them back together," he said on NBC. "Allow the research to continue."
Appearing later on CNN's "Late Edition," he emphasized that such research should not be expanded to include stem cells from embryos killed in the future.
"The president is very strong in his position, that he has indicated that no federal research dollars will be used for the derivation, the destruction of any future embryos," Mr. Thompson said. "And I think that that is a moral decision that this president's made, and he's not going to cross that."
But crossing that line would be precisely the most ethical course because it might help cure diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, according to Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican.
"Every day we lose, we're losing lives," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." The liberal Republican said he and Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, will sponsor legislation to expand federal funding of stem-cell research to include viable embryos from in vitro fertilization.
But some conservative members of Congress urged Mr. Bush to wield his veto pen against such legislation. Mr. Bush, entering the second week of his monthlong vacation here, continued to defend his decision on stem cells.
"Stem cell research takes place on a slippery slope of moral concern where much biomedical research is and will be conducted," he wrote in the New York Times. "We must keep our ethical footing."
He added: "Caution is demanded, because second thoughts will come too late. As we work to extend our lives, we must do so in ways that preserve our humanity."
Although Mr. Bush's decision last week was limited to the question of research on embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics — which elicits public ambivalence — he linked the issue to two practices that are far less popular.
By expanding the discussion to include cloning and the creation of embryos strictly for research purposes, the president sought public support for his opposition to the further destruction of embryos from in vitro clinics. Mr. Bush continued to assail these two other practices yesterday, even though he announced his opposition to them long before Thursday's nationally televised speech on embryos from in vitro clinics.
"My administration supports legislative efforts to prohibit the cloning of human beings for any purpose, and also to prohibit the production of human embryos solely to be destroyed in medical research," the president wrote.
Mr. Bush, who said on Saturday that he is praying he made the right decision, went to church yesterday with first lady Laura Bush at First United Methodist in Crawford. The church bulletin listed a "Thought for the day: Every time God closes a door, he always opens a window."
Although Pastor Don Elrod did not specifically mention the stem-cell debate, he prayed for the president and asked God for guidance on thorny issues.
"Precious heavenly Father, when you call us, we don't always know where we are going," Mr. Elrod said. "We've become like aliens in a strange homeland that we know nothing about sometimes. Let us remember that we are your flock. And let us hear Jesus' voice saying, 'Don't be afraid.'"

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