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Criticism From Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve says the Catholic Church and President Bush have obstructed research he believes might free him - and others like him - from their wheelchairs.

Political commentary is nothing new for the actor, who was a member of an actors and artists' political action group in New York State long before the riding accident that changed his life seven years ago.

But Reeve's comments on the Bush administration and the Catholic Church, in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, do represent new ammo in the red hot debate between advocates and opponents of embryonic stem cell research.

Celebrities have been very much involved in the campaign for stem cell research in the U.S., including Michael J. Fox, arguing on behalf of Parkinson's Disease research, and Mary Tyler Moore, making the case for diabetes research.

Reeve says the Bush Administration caved in on the issue of embryonic stem cell research after the Catholic church expressed opposition to cloning.

Reeve, paralyzed from the neck down when he was thrown from his horse, says he is "angry, and disappointed" that President Bush has hampered developments in stem cell research which Reeve believes might have led to human trials aimed at rebuilding the nervous systems of quadriplegics.

"If we'd had full government support, full government funding for aggressive research using embryonic stem cells from the moment they were first isolated, at the University of Wisconsin in the winter of 1998 - I don't think it unreasonable to speculate that we might be in human trials by now," says Reeve. "I think we could have been much further along with scientific research than we actually are."

Reeve also says Mr. Bush - who is not Catholic - has been paying too much attention to the views of the Catholic church.

"There are religious groups - the Jehovah's Witness, I believe - who think it's a sin to have a blood transfusion. Well, what if the president for some reason decided to listen to them, instead of to the Catholics, which is the group he really listens to in making his decisions about embryonic stem cell research?" says Reeve.

Reeve is supporting a bill that would support therapeutic cloning while punishing those who carried out reproductive cloning.

The actor, who has round-the-clock medical care which costs him $417,000 a year, once said he wanted to be on his feet by the time he was 50, coming up on Sept. 25.

"It's defeatist to harp on what might have been, and yet, it's hard to resist considering what might have been," says Reeve, who while acknowledging he won't get the birthday present he hoped for, still hopes to walk again someday.

His progress toward the goal has in fact amazed doctors, who have used non-traditional therapies to bring him to the point where he can move his right wrist, left fingers and both legs, and feel pinpricks and temperature on most of his body.

Reeve's progress, revealed earlier this month, is the subject of a documentary directed by his 22-year-old son, Matthew, called "Christopher Reeve: Courageous Steps."

"What we're trying to show is that conventional wisdom is now falling by the wayside," says the actor of the film, which he says has "a fly-on-the-wall, warts-and-all look at my life, which I would not have been willing to reveal to some other documentary-maker."

"In the past, people have seen me when I'm all put together in the (wheel)chair, dressed and groomed," says Reeve. "This is what really goes on daily."

The elder Reeve, who in 1998 starred in a TV remake of the Hitchcock thriller "Rear Window," hopes to direct a film himself next spring.

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