President Bush, who has been wrestling for months with whether or not to fund potentially groundbreaking but highly controversial stem-cell research, suggested today he would soon announce his much-anticipated decision.
Scientists say biomedical research using embryonic stem cells could lead to cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes, and effective treatments for debilitating brain and spinal injuries.
Advocates of people with those and other medical conditions who could potentially benefit from the research have urged Bush to give the green light to federal funding. They are joined by the bulk of Democratic and moderate Republicans lawmakers.
But opponents of abortion rights, including leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, say the studies are immoral because they use cells harvested from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process. Anti-abortion lawmakers, including GOP leaders in the House and Senate, have urged the president to bar taxpayer dollars from being spent on the research. A handful of conservative lawmakers opposed to abortion rights have, however, broken ranks to support government funding.
Proponents of the research point out that fertility clinics that perform in vitro fertilization treatments routinely discard leftover embryos.
Asked by reporters in Waco, Texas, today about what the setting for his announcement would be, Bush noted that the location for a visit he has scheduled for Aug. 21 has not yet been named, and added, "That's a hint."
The president is in the first week of a monthlong vacation, where he is spending most of his time at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, but making a number of trips outside the town, including one to Waco today to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity.
Bush is staunchly opposed to abortion rights and said during last year's presidential campaign that he opposes research that involves the destruction of live human embryos. Administration officials have previously described the president as genuinely "conflicted" over the matter and said he had been "agonizing" over his decision.
Asked by reporters in Crawford Tuesday if he was close to reaching a decision on the hotly debated issue, the president began to answer, "I'll be making that decision when —," then stopped to correct himself and said, "I'll be making that announcement when I'm ready."
The president's suggestion today that a date for that announcement has been set is another indication that he likely has already made up his mind on the hotly debated issue.