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Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Funding Legislation

President Bush on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have eased restraints on federally funded embryonic stem-cell research.

Flanked by a number of biologists and patients who have benefited from adult stem cells at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, the president said he made the decsion for moral and ethical reasons.

"If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers for the first time in our history to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos," President Bush said. "I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line. Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical. And it is not the only option before us."

The president went on to outline the scientific advances in the use of stem cells from adults and children, and he said that he has taken steps to increase support for research on "ethically produced" pluripotent stem cells.

It was only the third time the president has used his veto pen, but the second time he rejected stem-cell legislation.

Democrats, who made stem-cell legislation a top priority when they took control of both houses of Congress in January, probably do not have enough votes to override a veto.

President Bush accused Democrats of recycling an old measure that he already vetoed and argued that the bill would mean American taxpayers would - for the first time - be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos.

At the same time, Bush issued an executive order directing the Health and Human Services Department to promote research into "pluripotent" stem cells - ones that can give rise to any kind of cell in the body, except those required to develop a fetus.

"The president supports and encourages stem-cell research, including using embryonic lines, as long as it does not involve creating, harming or destroying embryos," spokesman Tony Fratto said. "That is an ethical line that should not be crossed."

The National Institutes of Health says these stem cells offer the prospect of having a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions.

Scientists were first able to conduct research with embryonic stem cells in 1998, the NIH says. There were no federal funds for the work until Bush announced on Aug. 9, 2001, that his administration would make the funds available for lines of cells that already were in existence.

Currently, states and private organizations are permitted to fund embryonic stem-cell research, but federal support is limited to cells that existed as of Aug. 9, 2001. The latest bill is aimed at lifting that restriction.

Opponents of the latest stem-cell measure insisted that the use of embryonic stem cells was the wrong approach on moral grounds — and possibly not even the most promising one scientifically. These opponents, who applauded Bush's veto, cite breakthroughs involving medical research conducted with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid, none of which involve the destruction of a human embryo.

The first veto of Bush's presidency occurred last year, when he rejected legislation to allow funding of additional lines of embryonic stem cells, a measure that passed over the objections of Republicans then in control. The second legislation he vetoed would have set timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq.

From NPR and The Associated Press reports.

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