- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush yesterday vowed to veto any congressional bill that allows embryos to be destroyed in the name of science.
"Any piece of legislation that undermines what I think is right will be vetoed," Mr. Bush said.
On Thursday, Mr. Bush announced his administration's policy on medical research using stem cells derived from embryos. Despite pressure from scientists and some lawmakers, Mr. Bush declared that federal funding would be allowed only for research that uses existing cells from 60 "lines" derived from embryos.
Two new polls released yesterday found that a majority of Americans approved of the president's position.
Senators from both parties have said they will try to ease Mr. Bush's restrictions when Congress returns next month. The president yesterday said he would block any effort to overturn his decision and rebuffed reporters who questioned his resolve.
"I answered [the stem-cell question] Thursday night when I gave an address to the nation," Mr. Bush told reporters. "I spent a lot of time on the subject, I laid out the policy I think is right for America and I'm not going to change my mind."
"The statement I laid out is what I think is right for America," he told reporters in a question-and-answer session following a ceremony at his ranch, where he signed an agriculture bill.
Both the ABC News and CNN-USA Today-Gallup polls released yesterday showed most Americans approved of Mr. Bush's position.
In the CNN poll of 1,017 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, 60 percent said they approved of the president's decision to allow limited funding for stem-cell research.
That number was up from 50 percent immediately after Mr. Bush's Thursday prime-time TV address.
The ABC poll found 56 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed Friday through Sunday approved of Mr. Bush's decision. Support for the president's position was strongest — by a 2-to-1 margin — among those who said they had a good basic understanding of the stem-cell issue.
Mr. Bush's decision met with the approval of two-thirds of Republicans and more than half of Democrats and independents, according to the ABC poll. Three-quarters of those who disapproved of the Bush decision preferred no funding at all for stem-cell research, the ABC poll found.
Defending his decision to allow research on the existing stem-cell lines — the subject of a class-action lawsuit by a pro-life group that says those cells have been derived in violation of current law — Mr. Bush said yesterday: "It's a moral issue, plus there's a chance that we can save people's lives, and I've laid out the path to do that."
Liberal senators such as Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Bush's plan falls short.
"The compromise he proposes may needlessly and severely limit the benefits of this research, and his compromise now needs to be constructively evaluated with the best medical and ethical guidance available. This is one of those issues where finding the right answer cannot be found simply by reaching down to the lowest common denominator," Mr. Leahy said.
Mr. Bush's 11-minute speech on Thursday announcing his policy for limited embryonic stem-cell research drew criticism from Catholic leaders and conservative groups, including the Family Research Council. Since then, the president has made a concerted effort to declare that is as far as he is willing to go.
In a New York Times op-ed column on Sunday, Mr. Bush said "it is unethical to end life in medical research."
"We do not end some lives for the medical benefit of others. For me, this is a matter of conviction: a belief that life, including early life, is biologically human, genetically distinct and valuable," he wrote.
Conservatives worry Mr. Bush will allow further research — and further destruction of embryos — if the limited federal funding results in scientific breakthroughs. But White House chief of staff Andrew Card and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson insisted the president would stand by his decision.
"This president will not equivocate," Mr. Thompson said Sunday. "He made a very strong statement on that."
Scientists working in the embryonic stem-cell field say 60 lines is not enough.
"We know that there is a shelf life to these, and we are very concerned when we will need more lines, what happens then," said Dr. John Gearhart of the Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore.
"And I do think it will be sooner rather than later," he said.
Catholic leaders continue to oppose Mr. Bush's stance that "while it is unethical to end life in medical research, it is ethical to benefit from research where life and death decisions have already been made," as the president wrote in Sunday's column.
"For the government to allow funding for this experiment makes the government complicit in what we consider to be wrongdoing," said Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, who called the existing lines "ill-gotten goods."
Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, and Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, are sponsoring legislation to broaden the federal funding of the research to include discarded embryos from in-vitro fertilization.
Mr. Specter said the issue will be taken up when Congress returns after its monthlong vacation.
"Every day we lose, we're losing lives," he said.
The matter also will end up in court. Samuel B. Casey, senior staff counsel for Human Life Advocates, said the nonprofit group that has sued the federal government to stop embryonic stem-cell research will return to court to ban the research altogether.
The group contends that the federal government is acting in violation of existing federal law — despite Mr. Bush's statement. At issue is a Clinton administration ruling that broadened a 1995 law passed by Congress banning the use of federal money for research in which embryos are "destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."
President Clinton encouraged the National Institutes of Health to set guidelines a year ago allowing federally funded scientists to bypass the law by obtaining embryonic stem cells from private laboratories.
A group of researchers and patients, including quadriplegic actor Christopher Reeve, in May filed a countersuit to the Human Life Advocates claim in which they charged they were "irreparably harmed" by the government's failure to implement the NIH guidelines as interpreted by the Clinton administration.
* This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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