Bush Backs Strictly Limited Stem Cell Research.
Under the Bush decision, Weinberg said, "only privately funded scientists will have access to new cell lines," which "places a significant barrier in the path of knowledge."
On the other hand, Richard Doerflinger, an official with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that Bush had crossed a "moral line" by permitting research on cells that required the destruction of a human embryo. He said that the limits proposed by Bush could be unworkable, setting the stage for future destruction.
A range of "pro-life" religious groups have intensely pressured the Administration not to allow any government support of the research, citing a pledge Bush made in May to ban government funding for research that destroys "living" embryos. Last month, after Bush met with the Pope in Italy, the Vatican weighed in strongly against any embryonic research.
But those who support stem cell research have argued that having the U.S. government's enthusiastic lead in funding is crucial to a robust and publicly accountable exploration of possible cures for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases.
A number of prominent Republican lawmakers who oppose abortion had weighed in to support the embryonic studies, including Sen. Bill Frist, MD, (R, Tenn.). Frist has offered a limited funding proposal similar to what Bush announced.
In the wake of Bush's decision, science and patient groups say that they are going to actively lobby Congress to pass legislation that would permit stem cell research from all the excess embryos in the nation's in vitro fertility clinics.
This more generous federal support would be in line with what the Clinton Administration had proposed, but could face a Bush veto if it clears Congress.
There are an estimated 100,000 frozen in vitro embryos -- embryos that were created as part of the in vitro fertilization process but never used. Under current law, these leftover embryos can legally be discarded.
Bush also announced last night that Leon Kass, a bioethicist at the University of Chicago, would chair a new presidential stem cell council to monitor the research and help develop guidelines on studies.
Although scientists say that cloned human embryos can be sources of stem cells, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to ban all human cloning last month, and Bush reiterated his opposition to these activities.