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August 9, 2001
President Bush's address to the nation
RE: The funding of Stem Cell Research
President Bush approves limited funding for Stem Cell Research
The full text of George W. Bush's remarks on federal funding of stem cell research:

BUSH: Good evening. I appreciate you giving me a few minutes of your time tonight so I can discuss with you a complex and difficult issue, an issue that is one of the most profound of our time.

The issue of research involving stem cells derived from human embryos is increasingly the subject of a national debate and dinner table discussions. The issue is confronted every day in laboratories as scientists ponder the ethical ramifications of their work. It is agonized over by parents and many couples as they try to have children or to save children already born. The issue is debated within the church, with people of different faiths, even many of the same faith, coming to different conclusions.

Many people are finding that the more they know about stem cell research, the less certain they are about the right ethical and moral conclusions.

My administration must decide whether to allow federal funds, your tax dollars, to be used for scientific research on stem cells derived from human embryos.

A large number of these embryos already exist. They are the product of a process called in vitro fertilization which helps so many couples conceive children. When doctors match sperm and egg to create life outside the womb, they usually produce more embryos than are implanted in the mother. Once a couple successfully has children or if they are unsuccessful, the additional embryos remain frozen in laboratories. Some will not survive during long storage, others are destroyed. A number have been donated to science and used to create privately funded stem cell lines. And a few have been implanted in an adoptive mother and born and are today healthy children.

Based on preliminary work that has been privately funded, scientists believe further research using stem cells offers great promise that could help improve the lives of those who suffer from many terrible diseases, from juvenile diabetes to Alzheimer, from Parkinsons to spinal cord injuries. And while scientists admit they are not yet certain, they believe stem cells derived from embryos have unique potential.

You should also know that stem cells can be derived from sources other than embryos: from adult cells, from umbilical cords that are discarded after babies are born, from human placentas. And many scientists feel research on these types of stem cells is also promising. Many patients suffering from a range of diseases are already being helped with treatments developed from adult stem cells.

However, most scientists, at least today, believe that research on embryonic stem cells offers the most promise because these cells have the potential to develop in all of the tissues in the body.

Scientists further believe that rapid progress in this research will come only with federal funds. Federal dollars help attract the best and brightest scientists. They ensure new discoveries are widely shared at the largest number of research facilities, and that the research is directed toward the greatest public good.

The United States has a long and proud record of leading the world toward advances in science and medicine that improve human life, and the United States has a long and proud record of upholding the highest standards of ethics as we expand the limits of science and knowledge.

Research on embryonic stem cells raises profound ethical questions, because extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus destroys its potential for life.

Like a snowflake, each of these embryos is unique, with the unique genetic potential of an individual human being.

As I thought through this issue I kept returning to two fundamental questions. First, are these frozen embryos human life and therefore something precious to be protected? And second, if they're going to be destroyed anyway, shouldn't they be used for a greater good, for research that has the potential to save and improve other lives?

I've asked those questions and others of scientists, scholars, bio-ethicists, religious leaders, doctors, researchers, members of Congress, my Cabinet and my friends. I have read heartfelt letters from many Americans. I have given this issue a great deal of thought, prayer, and considerable reflection, and I have found widespread disagreement.

On the first issue, are these embryos human life? Well, one researcher told me he believes this five-day-old cluster of cells is not an embryo, not yet an individual but a pre-embryo. He argued that it has the potential for life, but it is not a life because it cannot develop on its own.

An ethicist dismissed that as a callous attempt at rationalization. "Make no mistake," he told me, "that cluster of cells is the same way you and I, and all the rest of us, started our lives. One goes with a heavy heart if we use these," he said, "because we are dealing with the seeds of the next generation."

And to the other crucial question -- If these are going to be destroyed anyway, why not use them for good purpose? -- I also found different answers.

Many are these embryos are byproducts of a process that helps create life and we should allow couples to donate them to science so they can be used for good purpose instead of wasting their potential.

Others will argue there is no such thing as excess life and the fact that a living being is going to die does not justify experimenting on it or exploiting it as a natural resource.

At its core, this issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science. It lives at a difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the need to protect life in all its phases with the prospect of saving and improving life in all its stages.

As the discoveries of modern science create tremendous hope, they also lay vast ethical mine fields.

As the genius of science extends the horizons of what we can do, we increasingly confront complex questions about what we should do. We have arrived at that brave new world that seemed so distant in 1932 when Alduous Huxley wrote about human beings created in test tubes in what he called a hatchery.

In recent weeks, we learned that scientists have created human embryos in test tubes solely to experiment on them. This is deeply troubling and a warning sign that should prompt all of us to think through these issues very carefully.

Embryonic stem cell research is at the leading edge of a series of moral hazards. The initial stem cell researcher was at first reluctant to begin his research, fearing it might be used for human cloning. Scientists have already cloned a sheep. Researchers are telling us the next step could be to clone human beings to create individual designer stem cells, essentially to grow another you, to be available in case you need another heart or lung or liver.

I strongly oppose human cloning, as do most Americans. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts or creating life for our convenience.

And while we must devote enormous energy to conquering disease, it is equally important that we pay attention to the moral concerns raised by the new frontier of human embryo stem cell research. Even the most noble ends do not justify any means.

My position on these issues is shaped by deeply held beliefs. I'm a strong supporter of science and technology, and believe they have the potential for incredible good -- to improve lives, to save life, to conquer disease. Research offers hope that millions of our loved ones may be cured of a disease and rid of their suffering. I have friends whose children suffer from juvenile diabetes. Nancy Reagan has written me about President Reagan's struggle with Alzheimer's. My own family has confronted the tragedy of childhood leukemia. And like all Americans, I have great hope for cures.

I also believe human life is a sacred gift from our creator. I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe as your president I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world.

And while we're all hopeful about the potential of this research, no one can be certain that the science will live up to the hope it has generated.

Eight years ago, scientists believed fetal tissue research offered great hope for cures and treatments, yet the progress to date has not lived up to its initial expectations. Embryonic stem cell research offers both great promise and great peril, so I have decided we must proceed with great care.

As a result of private research, more than 60 genetically diverse stem cell lines already exist. They were created from embryos that have already been destroyed, and they have the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely, creating ongoing opportunities for research.

I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem cell lines, where the life-and- death decision has already been made.

Leading scientists tell me research on these 60 lines has great promise that could lead to breakthrough therapies and cures. This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life.

I also believe that great scientific progress can be made through aggressive federal funding of research on umbilical cord, placenta, adult and animal stem cells, which do not involve the same moral dilemma. This year your government will spent $250 million on this important research.

I will also name a president's council to monitor stem cell research, to recommend appropriate guidelines and regulations and to consider all of the medical and ethical ramifications of bio-medical innovation.

This council will consist of leading scientists, doctors, ethicists, lawyers, theologians and others, and will be chaired by Dr. Leon Cass, a leading bio-medical ethicist from the University of Chicago.

This council will keep us apprised of new developments and give our nation a forum to continue to discuss and evaluate these important issues.

As we go forward, I hope we will always be guided by both intellect and heart, by both our capabilities and our conscience.

I have made this decision with great care, and I pray it is the right one.

Thank you for listening. Good night, and God bless America. 

Subject: Dr. J.C. Wilke on Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Source: Life Issues Institute; June 27, 2001
"I'm Pro-Life and Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research"
By J.C. Wilke, M.D.

Much has been said and written about "stem cell" research. Unfortunately, a number of biologic inaccuracies continue to be promulgated and, as a result, have colored decision making for many people. The first thing to distinguish is the fact that ethically we can experiment on human tissue, but we should not experiment on human beings. Accordingly, it is perfectly ethical to proceed with any and all type of stem cell research as long as this is human tissue, but it is completely unethical to do embryonic stem cell research, which of its very nature necessitates the killing of a living human embryo to obtain that stem cell.

To understand this we must first review early developmental biology. Human life begins at the union of sperm and ovum. During that first day, this is properly termed a "fertilized egg." However, this single-celled human body divides, divides, and divides again, so that nearing the end of the first week this embryo, now called a "blastocyst," numbers several hundred cells. To obtain an embryonic stem cell, the researcher must cut open this embryo, thereby killing him or her and extracting stem cells.

After the first day, a number of names apply to various developmental stages of the same living human, fertilized egg or zygote (a single cell), a blastocyst (many cells), embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, etc. During the first week, this tiny new human floats freely down his or her mother's tube, dividing and sub-dividing as the journey is made. At about one week of life, he or she plants within the nutrient lining of the woman's uterus. In about three more days, having sent roots into the wall of the uterus, this new human sends a chemical hormonal message into the mother's blood stream and this stops her menstrual period. Four days later, the embryonic heart begins to beat and three weeks after that, brain waves are measurable. The biologic fact is that from day one, inside and then outside of the uterus, this is one continuous, uninterrupted period of growth and development. It is impossible to draw a line in time and to say that before this time, this was not a living human, and after this, it is. This is, in fact, a living human at the first cell stage and remains so until the old man dies. Accordingly, killing this living human embryo at day four or five, at week four or five or at year four or five is, in fact, killing a living human.

At the first cell stage, you were everything you are today. You were already male or female. You were alive, not dead. You were certainly human as you had 46 human chromosomes (you were not a carrot or a rabbit); and most importantly, you were complete. For nothing has been added to the single cell whom you once were, from then until today, nothing except food and oxygen. You were all there then, and to terminate your life at any stage of that can be called nothing other than killing.

Note that Senator Mack in his Wall Street Journal column repeats the biologic error seen almost everywhere. He speaks constantly of stem cells from "fertilized eggs." That stage lasts only one day. You cannot take a stem cell from a fertilized egg which itself is only one cell. Rather what he is advocating is killing a human embryo and extracting stem cells from the inside of that new living human. He attempts to distinguish between "a frozen fertilized egg" and a fetus. Actually the only difference is location, size, age and degree of development as the one is just a bit younger than the other.

I can understand why a pro-abortion Senator Jeffords or Chafee would favor destructive embryonic stem cell research, for they are strongly pro-abortion and have demonstrated many times their support for killing babies in the womb. What I don't understand is pro-life Senator Orin Hatch, who "insisted" that a frozen embryo was not the equivalent of an embryo or a fetus in the womb. I've known Senator Hatch well for 20 years. He's pro-life, but on this he has his facts dead wrong, and it's a tragedy that he would lend his undoubted prestige to destructive stem cell research by repeating an obvious biologic falsehood.

To say that these tiny humans will be "discarded" and not used and therefore should be "used" is a fallacious argument. Why then don't we use the tissues of a criminal who has been legally executed? Why did we universally condemn the Nazi doctors who used Jewish subjects because they were going to be killed anyway? Why is it that we cannot cannibalize a person's body who was killed in an accident? It's because we have respected the human body, an absolute necessity in a civilized nation.

But are there other options? Certainly, there are. There have been marvelous and well-publicized advances in the last year. We now have scientific data showing that stem cells can be obtained from fat. They can be obtained from cord blood. They can be obtained from neural tissue, from bone marrow, muscle, placental, and skin cells. We have reports of bone marrow stem cells being changed into liver cells. We have a report of skin cells being changed into heart cells. We have a report of cord blood promising to possibly create neural cells.

Almost every month we receive reports of new advances in this field. One of the latest is from Congressman Ron Lewis (R-KY), in a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. He urges him to consider a "tobacco based adult stem cell alternative to embryonic stem cell research." He notes the leadership of plant protein assisted stem cell research, which has identified the genes in proteins that cause self-renewal of adult stem cells. He points to the fact that certain plant proteins found in tobacco can stimulate such changes. And much more. This is yet the latest revelation. Rest assured there is much more to come.

There is a possibility, perhaps a probability that adult stem cells may function more efficiently and more safely than embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells are increasingly being shown to have a similar and perhaps an identical capacity to become cells of other types. They can be taken from the patient himself, then re-injected, thus eliminating the problem of immune rejection, which is a real problem in using tissues from another human, even from an embryonic human. There is no question but that there is probably an immense potential of use for stem cells. But this increasingly is being shown to not be exclusive for embryonic stem cells. In fact, adult stem cells may prove to be superior because they don't suffer the problem of rejection.

As for public opinion polls, as usual the wording of the question leads the answer. When the poll speaks of "fertilized eggs" and doesn't mention the destruction of human embryos, you get one kind of an answer. In comparison, a recent poll by International Communications Research of over 1,000 adults was worded more objectively. Its question was as follows: "Stem cells are the basic cells from which all of a person's tissues and organs develop. Congress is considering whether to provide federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos. The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells. Do you support or oppose using your federal tax dollars for such experiments?" The results were: Support - 24%, Opposed - 70%, Don't Know and Refused - 6%. Further, only 18% supported "all stem cell research" while 67% supported "only adult stem cell research."

Finally, can embryonic stem cells be said positively to be able to cure diseases that stem cells from other ethical sources would be unable to? No one can make that statement. Let us by all means pursue aggressive research with stem cells but there are some bridges that we, in a civilized society, should not cross. We should not deliberately kill one living human to possibly benefit another. Use stem cells? Yes, but don't kill to get them.

 Detroit's Cardinal Maida comments on Embryonic Stem Cell Research
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