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Bush said to be 'struggling' with stem cell decision

By Kelly Wallace
CNN White House Correspondent

Washington (CNN) -- President Bush is "struggling" with the question of whether to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, a senior administration official told CNN.

"He's struggling with the policy," the official said. "He's heard from everyone with an interest."

Bush told reporters Tuesday, he would announce his decision in "a while." White House officials have said a decision is expected sometime in July.

Scientists and even some anti-abortion rights Republicans are urging the president to finance experiments on stem cells from human embryos, charging the research could lead to revolutionary treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

On the other side, religious conservatives and some anti-abortion rights Republicans ardently oppose such research, arguing it would involve the destruction of human life.

"The president has got all options open to him," said the senior official.

Senior Bush advisers would not confirm reports of potential compromises the administration is considering to placate both sides, such as approving federal funding of experiments on a small number of cell lines that have already been identified, but not permitting tax dollars to be used to develop more.

Richard Doerflinger of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said such a compromise would be unacceptable.

"I don't see it as a compromise, but as a transitional step" to a "full blown" policy of federally financing embryonic stem cell research, Doerflinger said, adding that if researchers found the experiments on the small number of cell lines promising, they would want to create even more cell lines, and that would create pressure to allow tax dollars to be used for more experiments.

Doerflinger said his group is in favor of federal funding of research on non-embryonic stem cell lines, using adult tissue, or tissue from fetuses which died of natural causes.

"The president is very sensitive and cognizant about the deep sensitives on both sides of the issue," Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary, said Wednesday. "Without regard to anyone's political party, this is the classic case of valid arguments on both sides, involving culture of life and medical technology and life-saving issues."

Fleischer said it was not "an easy issue," and that Bush was giving it his "hard consideration."

The Bush spokesman would not talk about any "potential compromises," and could not say when a decision would be made and announced.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is a leading advocate within the administration of federally funded stem cell research.

Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, is said to be concerned about alienating Catholics and conservatives. Rove has not returned phone calls, seeking comment on his position on the issue.

Tuesday, three House Republican leaders, Representatives Dick Armey, R-Texas, Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and J.C. Watts, R-Oklahoma, issued a statement, urging the president not to back such research and give in to what they called "an industry of death."

Yet, other Republicans are urging the president to back the research. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, an abortion rights opponent, sent a letter to Bush in June, charging that such research is in line with "pro-life" values.

Thirty-eight House Republicans, led by Representative Jennifer Dunn, R-Washington, have also written Bush, urging him to support the research.



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