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Reaction to Bush's Stem Cell Decision Continues

Worldwide debate is underway now over the consequences of President Bush's decision on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Under the Bush plan announced last night:

  • Federal money can be spent only on existing stem cell lines.
  • These are from early stage human embryos left over from fertility treatments.
  • There is no federal funding to create new stem cell lines; on the grounds it would require the destruction of additional human embryos.

The CBS Evening News’s coverage of the battle lines and stem cell lines begins with CBS's John Roberts with the president in Crawford, Texas.

President Bush's decision last night was an attempt to place himself in the political center in the debate over embryonic stem cell research. Instead, Mr. Bush today found himself in a crossfire.

Lori Cole, the executive director of the Eagle Forum, says, "President Bush made the wrong decision."

The first barrage came from the right--conservatives denouncing the plan to fund embryonic stem cell research as wrong morally, scientifically, and politically.

Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause, says of the president, "He would have been a far greater leader, a far greater spokesperson, a far greater voice for the unborn had he shut that door entirely."

Democrats in Congress found the timing curious--the first week of the summer recess--and accused the president of doing the bare minimum. But even the minimum, restricting research to stem cells that had already been harvested from embryos, was too much for leaders of the Catholic Church.

Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of the US Council of Catholic Bishops had the following to say:

"It's like participating in some stolen goods: You say the goods were stolen, you didn't steal 'em, but you're gonna use 'em."

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

The decision marks a turning point for President Bush, a major ideological shift toward the middle as he prepares for an autumn emphasizing family values issues. Republican strategists say any damage to Mr. Bush's conservative base is just temporary.

Scott Reed, a Republican strategist, says, "George Bush has enough political capital with the social conservatives already put in the bank from the last 7 months of his presidency to be able to weather this short-term storm."

But there are deep concerns among scientists that the strict limits on funding may forever damage the research. The nation's top stem cell experts today challenged the president's claim that there were more than 60 existing cell lines available for experimentation.

John Gearhart of Johns Hopkins Medical Center says, "He really dropped a bombshell on us by saying that there were at least 60 of these lines available when among the scientific community we knew there are probably not more than 12."

The Adminitration today clarified that the additional cell lines were found after the very first survey of all of the stem cell research being conducted around the world.

Much of that work is proprietary, and while officials are optimistic that patent and licensing issues can be worked out, they admit tonight not all researchers may be willing to share.
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