Bush decision draws little direct fire
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's decision Thursday to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that doesn't involve destroying new embryos has initially drawn some degree of support from people on both sides of the issue.
"It's a thoughtful, decent, honorable decision," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who supported the funding. "He's come down on the side of facilitating life."
A leading opponent of the research, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, said he was "pleased about the limitations that he's put on the research." However, Brownback also said he was "concerned about the breaking of the barrier" by allowing even limited research.
"If [an embryo is] a life, we should treat it as such and not some sort of medical commodity," Brownback said.
Allowing embryonic stem cell research is particularly controversial among religious conservatives and some Catholic voters, who oppose it on moral grounds.
Dr. James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family and a major figure in the evangelical conservative movement, said he thought "we can live with that. We're going to have to analyze it in the days ahead."
"Our greatest concern is that is might open the door to further research," he said. "This issue is like setting fire to paper sack -- you can't control it, it's going to flare up in your face if we don't do it very, very carefully. And it looks to me like the president has done that."
The National Right to Life Committee had praise for the president's compromise.
"We are delighted that President Bush's decision prevents the federal government from becoming a party to any further killing of human embryos for medical experimentation," said Laura Echevarria, the committee's media director, in a statement.
"While National Right to Life mourns the loss of life for those embryos from whom stem cell lines have already been derived, nothing the National Right to Life Committee or President Bush can do can restore the lives of those embryos who have already died," she said.
About 10 minutes before the announcement, a top Bush adviser, Karl Rove, had a conference call with five leading conservatives on Capitol Hill who oppose stem cell research to brief them on what the president would say. All five expressed some degree of disappointment.
Karen Hughes, a top counselor to the president, said Bush "absolutely" did not violate a promise he made in his campaign to oppose stem cell research that resulted in the destruction of embryos.
Under the plan Bush outlined Thursday, only stem cell lines that already exist, created from embryos already destroyed, can be used in federally funded research.
"What the president did was exactly in keeping with what he said in the campaign," Hughes said.
Before the announcement, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said that if Bush refused to allow federal funding, the Senate would take up legislation this fall to override the decision.
After the announcement, Daschle issued a statement saying he was "heartened" that Bush had decided to allow some research but that the Senate might still consider legislation.
Two other leading Democrats, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said Bush did not go far enough in allowing medically important research. Gephardt called Bush's proposal the "bare minimum."
Two celebrities who have been in the forefront of push for embryonic stem cell research, Mary Tyler Moore and Christopher Reeve, also expressed appreciation to Bush for allowing some research, though they pressed the case for broader guidelines.
"I think it is a step in the right direction," said Reeve, who suffers from a spinal cord injury. "I think what needs to happen is the matter ought to go before Congress and that legislation should be introduced to adopt the Clinton guidelines that were put in place a couple years ago that allow broader research in this."
"I am so pleased with the thought and care that he put into making this decision, and I think it is a good one," said Moore, who suffers from diabetes.
"We always wish it were more, but ... compared to what we were all fearing might happen, this is good," Moore said.
The chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has been a key site for stem cell research, also expressed support for Bush's plan.
"The president's decision reflects a careful balance between ethical concerns and medical potential, and allows research to go forward under the carefully controlled conditions that are appropriate to the current state of medical knowledge," said John Wiley.
-- CNN Congressional Correspondent Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.
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