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President’s stem cell decision to be telecast live tonight

WASHINGTON (BP)–After months of deliberating, President Bush will announce his decision tonight on whether to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The announcement will come in a televised address to the nation at 9 p.m. Eastern.

For months, groups on both sides of the issue have tried to sway the president, with Southern Baptist Convention leaders consistently opposing embryonic stem cell research.

In early March, Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and ERLC bioethics consultant Ben Mitchell wrote to Bush asking him to rescind federal rules implemented under President Clinton that permit funding of destructive stem cell research. Bush had ordered a review of the guidelines.

In a television appearance in April, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said that embryos “are human beings to be respected, defended and protected.” Mohler is scheduled to appear on CNN’s “Larry King Live” tonight at 9 Eastern following Bush’s announcement. The show will focus on the implications of the president’s decision.

Mitchell, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear on Moody Broadcasting Network’s “Open Line” tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.

In July, Land said the decision by Bush is a true test of his character. On at least three occasions, Bush has said he opposes using federal money to fund embryonic stem cell research.

“If he keeps faith with his promises and with the ideals that brought him to office, he will go down in history as a man of sterling character — a true statesman of conviction,” Land wrote in a column on Baptist Press July 26. “If he caves in to the pressure, as enormous as it is, and compromises his promise on this most important issue, he will have lost the confidence of many of those who elected him.”

In 1999, the SBC adopted a resolution opposing research that results in the destruction of human embryos.

In a press briefing this morning, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush spent part of Wednesday night writing the speech he will deliver.

“This is a serious, difficult issue that the president has approached in a deliberate and thoughtful manner,” McClellan said, according to CNSNews.com. “The president has carefully considered all the scientific and ethical issues involved and he wants to share his decision directly with the American people.”

Bush will deliver the speech from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It is expected to last from eight to 10 minutes.

“This is a decision he has made based on what he believes is in the best interest of the American people and the best interest of this nation,” McClellan said. “The president does not make decisions by polls. The president makes decisions based on what he believes is right for America, and his focus was on the scientific issues involved, the ethical issues involved.”

Embryonic stem cell research is already taking place in privately funded laboratories. Guidelines from the National Institutes of Health allow federal funds for research on stem cells that are taken by privately funded means. In the process of harvesting stem cells, embryos are killed. Those who oppose this type of research point out that stem cells can be harvested from adult sources, such as from umbilical cords or bone marrow.

“I believe that there is an ethical basis for some stem cell research — but not coming from embryos … instead, coming from other adult cells,” Mohler has said. “So there are other options here.”
Tom Strode contributed to this article.

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  • Michael Foust