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Bush: Stem-cell issue 'way beyond politics'

Bush and Blair were asked about stem-cell research during their news conference.
Bush and Blair were asked about stem-cell research during their news conference.  

HALTON, England (CNN) -- President Bush says he will take his time making a decision on whether the government should support embryonic stem-cell research, insisting his private deliberations are "way beyond politics."

The president gave no hint Thursday of where he might come down on the issue, despite the endorsement Wednesday by Sen. Bill Frist, an influential Tennessee Republican and a physician, who said such research is worthy of taxpayer support provided there are strict government controls over it.

"This is an issue that speaks to morality and science and the just position of both, and the Americans deserve a president who will listen to people and to make a serious, thoughtful judgment on this complex issue, and that's precisely how I'm going to handle it," Bush said.

CNN's Dana Bash on the politics, science and morality of the stem cell issue  
CNN's Elizabeth Cohen says stem cell research is gaining political support in Washington (July 18)

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Frist backs stem cell research
Big Picture: Research avenue adds fuel to stem cell controversy
Read the NIH stem cell report  

The question of embryonic stem-cell research has divided conservative Republicans. Many oppose it, believing it shows a disregard for human life and would promote abortion.

But several prominent anti-abortion lawmakers, including Frist and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, support the research, rejecting the claim that it would lead to more abortions and maintaining that it could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of a variety of diseases.

"This is a very serious issue that has got a lot of ramifications to it. And I'm going to take my time because I want to hear all sides," Bush said. "I want to fully understand the opportunities and to fully think through the dilemmas."

Bush is in Europe for an economic summit that begins Friday in Italy.

He was asked about the stem-cell issue during a joint news conference in England with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who noted his country has already made a decision in favor of the research.

Blair also acknowledged it was "an extraordinarily difficult and sensitive question for people" and he suggested everyone approach the debate with "goodwill."

He urged "people on whatever side of the argument they are to realize that the people on the opposite side are not necessarily badly intentioned or badly motivated. They are just in an immensely difficult situation taking a different perspective."



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