Bush: Stem-Cell Issue Goes Beyond Politics

ByABC News
July 19, 2001, 3:44 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, July 19 -- Under immense pressure to decide whether to fund embryonic stem-cell research, President Bush said today the controversial issue goes "way beyond politics."

'This Is Way Beyond Politics,' Says Bush

"This is an issue that speaks to morality and science and the just position of both," the president said at a news conference in London, where he began his second European tour in as many months. "Americans deserve a president who will listen to people and to make a serious, thoughtful judgment on this complex issue."

The issue is biomedical research that scientists say could lead to cures for debilitating diseases like diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, but that Roman Catholic Church leaders and many anti-abortion rights conservatives say is immoral because it uses cells extracted from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process.

"It doesn't matter who's on what side, as far as I'm concerned," Bush said. "This is way beyond politics."

But as the president nears a decision on federal funding, an emotionally charged debate has raged on Capitol Hill.

"This is not an abstract issue it's about saving the lives of millions of human beings," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Wednesday as he chaired a hearing on stem-cell research. "It is imperative that the federal government support this research."

"Forcing U.S. taxpayers to subsidize research that relies on deliberate destruction of human embryos for their stem cells is illegal, immoral and unnecessary," countered Richard Doerflinger, an associate director at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Both Sides Enlist Children in Emotional Appeals

With administration officials saying Bush is genuinely "conflicted" and is "agonizing" over his decision, each side has vied for the president's conscience, enlisting children in an effort to put a human face on their cause.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, 12-year-old Jackie Singer of Las Vegas pleaded for government funding, saying the research could help her twin sister, Mollie, who suffers from juvenile diabetes.