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Bush reiterates stem cell stance

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- Two days after announcing his decision to support limited embryonic stem cell research, President Bush used his weekly radio address to reiterate his position on an issue that he says holds "great promise and great peril."

"At its core, this issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the needs of science," Bush said.

The president, using some of the exact same words he delivered to the nation Thursday in his nationally televised address, said Saturday, "I have made this decision with great care, and I pray it is the right one."

Watch President Bush's speech on federal funding for stem cell research (Part 1) (August 9)

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Watch President Bush's speech on federal funding for stem cell research (Part 2) (August 9)

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What President Bush's decision means

Bush will allow federal funding for research on 60 lines of embryonic stem cells. These lines of cells have the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely but not all have been approved by the National Institutes of Health, which sets federal standards for research.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to turn into any other kind of cell in the body, and have been looked to as possible treatments for Alzheimer's disease and Type I diabetes.

The president did not address criticism of his decision to allow federal tax dollars to back research only on stem cells which have already been extracted from human embryos. Bush is supporting research on the more than 60 "genetically diverse stem cell lines" he says already exist and could lead to breakthroughs in the fight against diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

"I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem cell lines where the life and death decision has already been made," he said.

Bush followed up his radio address with an opinion piece in The New York Times on Sunday. Bush touts his decision as a way to keep an "ethical footing" while promoting research. "Biomedical progress should be welcomed, promoted and funded," he wrote. "Yet it can and must be humanized."

Some scientists questioned whether more than 60 embryonic stem cell lines actually exist. Senior administration officials told reporters Friday that at least 30 are currently in U.S. laboratories, and that the rest are in countries such as Australia, Israel, Sweden and Singapore.

The National Institutes of Health started work Friday on a federal registry, which will eventually list all the existing stem cell lines, many of which are owned by private companies.

Some liberals accused the president of not going far enough by not supporting federal funding of research on human embryos at fertility clinics that otherwise would be discarded.

In his radio address, Bush said his decision "allows us to explore the promise and potential stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line, by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life."

While some abortion foes such as the National Right to Life Committee said they were "delighted" by the decision, others, including the Family Research Council and the Catholic Church, accused Bush of crossing a moral line.

Aides said the president made his decision based on ethics and morality, not on politics.

Still, Bush could end up scoring some points with moderates but could also alienate some conservatives.

Senior Bush advisers worked the phones Friday to assess the political fall-out, and appeared before television cameras throughout the day to sell the president's decision.



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