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    Bush Caught in the Middle on Stem Cells


    The conservative Family Research Council praised these Republicans as "leaders who actually lead". In a statement, the group said, "[They] are to be commended for their forthright defense of human life -- even at, and especially at, its earliest stages."

    But embryonic stem cell research now appears to have gained majority support from both House and Senate Democrats and Republicans.

    Last month, Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) and 37 other House Republicans informed Bush that they supported federal funding. Meanwhile, the Republican Main Street Partnership, a moderate GOP group with 60 congressional members, also has announced its support for funding.

    Rep. Amo Houghton (N.Y.), founder of the moderate group, said, "This research offers hope to millions of families facing the loss of a loved one from an incurable disease or injury."

    In the Senate, "antiabortion" Republicans Orrin Hatch (Utah), Strom Thurmond (S.C.), and Gordon Smith (Ore.) also back the research.

    In a letter to Bush last month, Hatch said, "Proceeding with this research is in the best interests of the American public and is consistent with our shared pro-life, pro-family values."

    Hatch also noted that most biomedical researchers do not believe that adult stem cell research is "sufficient or even scientifically preferable" to embryonic stem cell studies.

    Under guidelines that the NIH developed during the Clinton Administration, embryos could not be created for the purpose of supplying stem cells for research. The guidelines also prohibit federal funding for the actual extraction of the cells from the embryos.

    Both sides of the stem cell debate say there is little room for compromise.

    Kevin Wilson, director of public policy for the American Society for Cell Biology, tells WebMD, "The NIH guidelines themselves are a good compromise. There is no need to compromise any further." The society strongly backs funding for the research.

    But David Prentice, PhD, a professor of life sciences at Indiana State University, tells WebMD, "Ideally, you wouldn't be killing any embryos. Our compromise position -- private funds OK but no federal funds -- is probably where the line needs to be drawn." Prentice is a founding member of a coalition of health experts opposed to the funding.

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