(CNSNews.com) - President Bush threatened to veto a House bill under consideration Tuesday that would authorize federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
The measure, sponsored by Reps. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), has bipartisan support and would allow stem cells from surplus embryos at fertility clinics to be used for research instead of being thrown away.
"Today the House of Representatives is considering a bill that violates the clear standard I set four years ago. This bill would take us across a critical ethical line by creating new incentives for the ongoing destruction of emerging human life. Crossing this line would be a great mistake," said Bush during a speech at the White House.
"What our bill does, it takes embryos, which are left over from a process and which will be thrown out, and it uses them to greater good," Fox News quoted DeGette as saying.
Meanwhile, a bill that the president does support would create a national clearinghouse of umbilical cord blood, a source of stem cells, and matches the stem cells with patients who need it. That measure is sponsored by two Republicans - Reps. Artur Davis of Alabama and Chris Smith of New Jersey.
"Amazingly, we are on the threshold of systematically turning medical waste, umbilical cords and placentas, into medical miracles for huge numbers of very sick and terminally ill patients," Fox News quoted Smith as saying.
Bush held a press conference Tuesday at the White House with 21 families who had "chosen a life-affirming alternative" by either adopting frozen embryos that were left over from fertility treatments or giving the frozen embryos up for adoption instead of turning them over for "research that destroys them."
"Twenty-one children here today found a chance for life with loving parents," said Bush, who added that the public must recognize that "real human lives are involved" in the embryonic stem cell debate - "both the lives of those with diseases that might find cures from this research, and the lives of the embryos that will be destroyed in the process."
The president called the children who were on hand at the White House press conference "reminders that every human life is a precious gift of matchless value."
Bush has already authorized the federal funding of research on 60 existing stem cell lines, which he announced on Aug. 1, 2000. Those stem cell lines were derived only from embryos that had already been destroyed, Bush noted.
"This policy set a clear standard: We should not use public money to support the further destruction of human life," the president said. Bush added that about 600 shipments of eligible stem cell lines are already being used by researchers nationwide and over 3,000 more shipments are still available.
In addition, the federal government increased funding for all forms of stem cell research by more than 80 percent since Bush took office, and "a tremendous amount of both public and private research is underway in America on embryonic, as well as adult stem cells, and stem cells from umbilical cord blood," the president noted.
Meanwhile, research is underway into alternative sources of stem cells, Bush said, including adult bone marrow, "as well as different ethical ways of getting the same kind of cells now taken from embryos without violating human life or dignity."
Bush noted that the embryo adoption program by Nightlight Christian Adoptions has matched over 200 biological parents with about 140 adoptive families, and about 81 children have been born so far.
"Every embryo is unique and genetically complete, like every other human being. And each of us started out our life this way. These lives are not raw material to be exploited, but gifts," said Bush, who added that "there is no such thing as a spare embryo."
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