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Back on trail, Elizabeth Edwards pushes stem-cell funding

Story Highlights

• Edwards calls for more federal funds for research, including on stem cells
• Edwards' speech was the first since announcing her cancer had returned
• Edwards is wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards
• Couple defended decision to continue campaigning in "60 Minutes" interview
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) -- In her first public speech since announcing last Thursday that her breast cancer had returned, Elizabeth Edwards appealed Monday for more federal funding for health research of all kinds, including stem-cell research.

"I think that we're foolhardy to not be engaging in federal funding of stem-cell research in the most aggressive way we possibly can," the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards of North Carolina told a luncheon meeting of supporters at the City Club of Cleveland.

The reason the issue has become so controversial is largely because people don't understand it, she said.

"If people think that you're throwing babies out, dissecting children, to do stem-cell research, I'm not for that," said Edwards, who had accepted the speaking invitation before receiving her diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the 2004 campaign and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. But Thursday, the couple disclosed that cancer had spread to her bones -- a condition doctors described as incurable, but treatable. (Watch Elizabeth Edwards on her own out on the campaign trail Video)

Edwards noted that stem-cell work uses blastocysts containing clumps of 16 or 32 cells that were collected by fertility clinics but are no longer needed and would otherwise be thrown away.

"We're talking about using something to save ourselves and our children," she said. "Instead of throwing it away, don't we want to use it in a way that's productive?"

Some opponents of the work believe that life begins at conception and that using stem cells is tantamount to killing a human.

But Edwards said opponents will not be able to halt the work, whatever their beliefs. "You're not going to stop it by saying there is no federal funding," she said. "You're just going to stop it from happening here."

Edwards joked about the spike in attention from the news media since she made her announcement, including an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS News' "60 Minutes." (Watch the Edwardses defend their decision to continue campaigning Video)

"I can't turn on the television without seeing me, or open the newspaper without seeing me and, honestly, I'm sick to death of me," the lawyer said.

During the "60 Minutes" interview, the Edwardses defended their decision to continue his White House bid, but the former senator said voters have legitimate questions about the decision to keep running.

"I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic, have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in, to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make," Edwards, the party's 2004 vice-presidential nominee, told CBS' Katie Couric.

Edwards said he and his wife decided together to go forward with his campaign, and that he was in the race "for the duration."

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