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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 06:09 GMT 07:09 UK
Bush backs stem cell research
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition
Some opponents wanted a total ban on funding
US President George W Bush has approved federal funding for limited medical research on stem cells extracted from human embryos.

Embryonic stem cell research offers both great promise and great peril, so I have decided we must proceed with great care

George W Bush
The decision came after months of highly public deliberation, and has been given a cautious welcome by scientists and pro-lifers, although conservatives on the issue are, as expected, angry.

Mr Bush said finance would be restricted to existing stem cell lines from embryos that had already been destroyed.

In the first nationally-televised speech of his presidency, he said he had come down in favour of funding because of the potential for new cures for chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's - from which many millions of Americans suffer.

The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington says the move is a break from the total opposition Mr Bush expressed during the election campaign, but is the most restricted one he could probably have taken given his pro-life position.

"I have made this decision with great care and I pray it is the right one," Mr Bush said.

"This allows us to explore the promise and potential of 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."

George W Bush
Bush: Risking anger from conservatives
Embryonic stem cell lines are created by removing an inner cell mass from a five- to seven-day-old embryo, a procedure which kills the embryo.

When properly nurtured, the cells are able to replicate themselves, creating what is called a stem cell line that provides continuing opportunities for research.

Mr Bush's decision means that no federal funds will be spent on research on stem cells from newly destroyed embryos, nor will it allow the creation of any human embryos for research purposes or the cloning of humans to make embryos.

The president, an opponent of abortion, said it was important that "we pay attention to the moral concerns of the new frontier".

'Morally unacceptable'

human embryo
Mr Bush did not support the use of embryos left over after IVF
White House aides insist that Mr Bush has not broken a pledge he made while running for the presidency. At the time, he said he "opposed research that involves destroying a living human embryo".

A key Catholic conservative group was quick to criticise the decision.

It will be good enough for some purposes - but it will be limited by its very nature of being a limited number of cell lines

Dr Diane Krause,
Yale University
"The trade-off he has announced is morally unacceptable," said Bishop Joseph A Fiorenza, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The National Right to Life Committee said it was "delighted" federal government would no longer "be a party to any further killing of human embryos for medical experimentation."

Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, who backs the research, said the decision was "an important step forward", but did not go far enough.

That was a view backed by many scientists, although there was relief that at least some stem cell research would go forward with federal funds.

Advice from Pope

Mr Bush announced that he was creating a president's council - led by conservative biomedical ethicist Leon Kass of the University of Chicago - to monitor the research and recommend guidelines and regulations. Other ethicists, scientists, doctors, lawyers and theologians will also be named to the council.

Mr Bush did not allow what many scientists were looking for - the "harvesting" of stem cells from some of the 100,000 embryos frozen in laboratories across the US.

The president deliberated for months on the issue, taking advice from bioethicists, lawmakers, and even Pope John Paul II.

Mr Bush made his speech from his Texas ranch, far from the White House where opponents of stem cell research had marched earlier in the day.

BBC's Washington Correspondent Tom Carver
"Many scientists are disappointed"
US President George W Bush
"Even the most noble ends do not justify any means"
Benjamin Rudolph, a biotechnologist with Aptagen
"The biotechnology community is really going to be mixed on this one"
See also:

17 Feb 01 | San Francisco
Stem cell hope for Parkinson's
07 Sep 00 | Festival of science
Stem cell injection for stroke on the way
19 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Stem cells promise liver repair
02 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Stem cells grown from dead bodies
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