Bush Offers Compromise on Stem Cell Controversy

Last night in his first prime-time speech as president, George W. Bush announced that he would support the use of federal funds for research on human embryonic stem cells, but only on an extremely limited basis.

In a carefully worded address, Mr. Bush offered up a compromise solution to a complex political and moral issue. CBS News's Bill Plante explains.

With his decision to allow federal funding for research only on already-existing stem cell lines, President Bush is seeking a middle ground.

He avoids breaking a campaign promise to oppose research, which destroys embryos. But he satisfies neither those who wanted no experimentation nor those who hoped work could proceed on frozen embryos.

From his Texas ranch, Bush explained his decision.

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

The president said he had consulted widely. He mentioned hearing from Nancy Reagan, who supports research in hopes of finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease. He also heard from the pope, who made it plain he believes the research compromises human life.

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

Bush said there were more than 60 stem cell lines in existence, created from embryos which have already been destroyed, and which will replicate indefinitely.

"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," said Bush.

A White House spokesman defended the president's decision as consistent with his belief in the sanctity of human life, a point Bush himself made in his speech.

"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," said Bush.

That may not satisfy some critics of the research. Some members of Congress may introduce legislation to stop or speed up research. But the White House has plenty of political cover--even though it has insisted Bush did not weigh the politics in making his decision. He has chosen a solution that is supported by a majority of Americans, but which may not satisfy some critics of the research.

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