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Bush opposition to stem-cell research repeated; action on NIH rules unclear

WASHINGTON (BP)–President-elect George W. Bush has reiterated his opposition to federal funding of research using destroyed human embryos.

Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters Jan. 4 the president-elect continues to oppose such experimentation, according to a report on the ABC News website. It was not made clear, however, whether Bush would seek to rescind recently established federal guidelines that permit federally funded research on cells obtained from private sources, ABC News reported.

“During the campaign, President-elect Bush said that he would oppose using taxpayer funds to support fetal-tissue research from induced abortions,” Fleischer said, according to ABC News. “He said that as president he would oppose federally funded research for experimentation on embryonic stem cells that require live human embryos to be discarded or destroyed.”

In August, the National Institutes of Health issued rules allowing federal funds to be used for the study of stem cells from early human embryos but not for the actual act of deriving such cells, which requires the destruction of the embryos. The extraction of the cells has to be privately funded to fit within the NIH rules.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, as well as pro-life leaders in Congress and other pro-life organizations, criticized the NIH action as a violation of the sanctity of human life and of a federal law. They also said it was a presumptive move when stem cells from other sources have shown promise.

Stem cells are primitive cells from which a wide variety of tissue in the human body develops. Their isolation for the first time in late 1998 has provided hope for producing cells and tissues to use as replacements in treating a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes.

Congress adopted a measure in 1996 prohibiting federal support for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed.” Recent studies have shown stem cells from such adult sources as bone marrow can be used to produce tissue that would not be tainted by the destruction of human life.

Funding of stem-cell research may be an issue in the confirmation hearings of Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson as Bush’s choice to direct the Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is a part of HHS.

Thompson has signed several pro-life bills but also has expressed support for stem-cell research using human embryos, according to a report by the Republican National Coalition for Life.

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