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Candidate Bush opposed embryo stem cell research

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As a presidential candidate last year, George W. Bush cited his opposition to stem cell research "that involves the destruction of live human embryos."

President Bush addresses the nation Thursday night on whether he supports federal funding for any type of embryonic stem cell research.

Conservatives say Bush's statements on the campaign trail should mean the president will oppose funding completely, and several have warned him he risks losing a base of support if they perceive a change in his position.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen on why stem cells are so valuable in research (August 9)

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CNN's Jonathan Karl on House and Senate views on stem cell research (August 9)

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Adult stem cells or embryonic? Scientists differ
Wall Street awaits Bush decision Stem-cells: Bush's no-win choice
In-Depth: The stem-cell debate  
CNN Access: Thompson: Bush will make 'very reasoned opinion'  
CNN Access: Bioethicist on implications of Bush's decision  

In an interview with CNN, the Rev. Jerry Falwell said he hopes the president "sticks with his pro-life position" and closes the door to federal funding of such research.

But supporters of embryonic stem cell research said the issue is more complex. They believe -- or hope -- that Bush may announce his support for narrowly defined and regulated research, and that his campaign statements do not necessarily preclude that.

Here is a sampling of what Bush has said about the issue:

Last year, Bush responded to a questionnaire from the U.S. Catholic Conference with this question: What is your position on using federal funds for research that involves the destruction of live human embryos to obtain their cells for experimentation (embryonic stem cell research)?

Bush's answer: "I oppose using federal funds to perform fetal tissue research from induced abortions. Taxpayer funds should not underwrite research that involves the destruction of live human embryos."

Last year, campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan described then-Texas Gov. Bush's position this way: "The governor opposes federal funding for stem cell research that involves destroying a living human embryo."

Another campaign spokesman, Scott McClellan -- who is now deputy White House press secretary -- said Bush has "consistently opposed federal funding for research that requires embryos to be discarded or destroyed."

This past May, Bush sent a letter to Bob Best, president of Culture of Life Foundation in which he wrote:

"I oppose federal funding for stem-cell research that involves destroying living human embryos. I support ... research on stem cells from adult tissue."

Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, a surgeon and key Bush ally, last month outlined a position that some observers believe the president may follow. Frist, who opposes abortion, endorsed federal funding for limited embryonic stem cell research.

Frist's proposal would ban the creation of embryos for research purposes and limit research to stem cells of embryos from fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded.

That may be a key distinction. If he comes out in favor of limited funding in cases where the embryos would be discarded anyway, Bush may make the argument that his position has been consistent and that his action would not lead to the further destruction of embryos.

• Stem Cells: A Primer, National Institutes of Health, May 2000
• University of Pennsylvania Bioethics
• The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics

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