WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) Aug 10 - President Bush broke his promise to prevent federal funding of embryonic stem cell research with his announcement that he would allow funding of research on existing cell lines, conservative pro-life groups said Friday morning.
The groups accused the president of seeking a political compromise on embryonic stem cell research that abandoned strong pro-life principles. Organizations vowed to fight the president in court and to take on Congress, which is poised to consider expanding funding for research that goes beyond the president's new rules.
"There's an inconsistency here in [Bush's] position. He would have been a far greater leader, a far greater spokesperson, a far greater voice for the unborn had he shut that door entirely, bolted it and thrown away the key," said Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.
"Even though the government is not funding the killing of the embryos, it is now funding their killers," said Father Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.
But pro-life advocates acknowledged that they face an uphill battle on the issue, which now pits them not only against the president but also against several conservative Republicans in Congress. The issue has even split anti-abortion forces.
President Bush announced Thursday night that he would not allow public funding of human stem cell research that involves the future destruction of live embryos. But he will allow federal funding of research on existing embryonic stem cell lines, since "the life and death decision has already been made" on the embryos that provided the cells, he said.
The National Right to Life Committee yesterday issued a statement praising Bush for preventing the government from "becoming party to any further killing of human embryos."
Pro-life advocates today drew repeated parallels between performing research on human stem cells and the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, where doctors often justified experimenting on prisoners because they were slated for death anyway.
"We should be horrified at the prospect of participating in research on embryos who were deliberately killed for the same reason that we are horrified that gold fillings were taken from the teeth of Holocaust victims," said Wendy Wright, the communications director for Concerned Women for America.
President Bush said in a campaign speech in May of last year that he opposes any federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. A 1995 federal law prohibits federal funding for research that involves the destruction of a live human embryo, but regulators in the Clinton administration interpreted the rule to allow funding of research as long as embryos were destroyed by private companies and not by the government.
The groups today criticized the president for taking what they view as a soft stance on the 1995 law. "The president has embraced the hair-splitting logic of the previous administration," Wright said.
Samuel B. Casey, the executive director of the Christian Legal Society, said that he would push a lawsuit in federal court against the Clinton administration, claiming that existing National Institute of Health guidelines on embryonic stem cell research violate the law. The president is relying on those guidelines to determine which cell lines are acceptable for research purposes.
"We will now go back into court to gain a preliminary and permanent injunction barring any federal funding of any embryonic stem cell research under these illegal regulations," Casey said.
Others vowed to step up their fight to prevent Congress from expanding the availability of public funds for human stem cell research. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) said yesterday that he intends to press for "an early Senate vote" on a bipartisan bill to allow federal funding to extract stem cells from embryos destined for destruction at fertility clinics.
"We intend to appeal to principles that affirm the sanctity of innocent human life," said Kenneth Connor, president of the Family Research Council.
Connor conceded that the president's
decision, along with the dynamics of the stem cell debate in Congress,
makes it unlikely that pro-life forces will prevail. Several strongly pro-life
GOP senators, including Orrin Hatch of Utah, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and
Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, have all sided with Specter on the issue.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd