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Bush continues to defend his position on stem cells

16 June 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 263

Despite calls from members of both political parties in the US House of Representatives and Senate, as well as celebrities and the Reagan family, President Bush has no plans to change his policy on human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. Recently, cross-party groups - 206 members of Congress and 58 from the Senate - have written letters to the president urging him to relax the rules he established on 9 August 2001, which say that federally-funded researchers may only work on ES cell lines created before that date.

One of the Senators who signed the letter to the president was John Kerry, the man likely to be the Democratic candidate facing Bush in the presidential elections in November. On Saturday, in a radio broadcast, Kerry called on Bush to ease the restrictions on ES cell research. 'We must lift the barriers that stand in the way of science and push the boundaries of medical exploration so that future researchers can find the cures that are there if only they are allowed to look', he said, adding: 'Medical discoveries that come from stem cells are crucial next steps in humanity's uphill climb'.

White House spokesman Scott McLellan, speaking to the press on Monday, responded, saying 'the president came up with a policy that will allow us to explore the promise of stem cell research, and do so in a way that doesn't cross a certain moral threshold that he set'. He went on to say that basic research was still being conducted which would hopefully lead to a better understanding of stem cells and their potential uses, saying that there was still a lot scientists do not yet know. He further stated that President Bush had 'articulated his reasons' for the current policy, including that he does not believe 'we should be creating life for the sole purpose of destroying life', adding 'that is his position, and that remains his position'.

On Tuesday, President Bush spoke by satellite link to an audience of Christian conservatives - the Southern Baptist Convention - and  seemingly reiterated his opposition to ES cell research. 'Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man', he said. He also called upon Congress to pass 'a comprehensive and effective ban on human cloning', which could be taken to mean cloning for both reproductive and research purposes.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Bush Defends Limits on Stem Cell Research
Yahoo Daily News |  15 June 2004
Bush Defends Stem-Cell Limit, Despite Pressure Since Reagan Death
The New York Times |  16 June 2004
Bush resists pressure to ease stem-cell curb
The Chicago Tribune |  15 June 2004
Kerry Calls on Bush to Reverse Stem Cell Policy
Reuters |  12 June 2004
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