WASHINGTON — President Bush on Friday said he would veto legislation that would loosen restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and expressed concern about human cloning research in South Korea.
“I’m very concerned about cloning,” the president said. “I worry about a world in which cloning becomes accepted.”
White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy said the work in South Korea amounted to human cloning for the sole purpose of scientific research. “The president is opposed to that,” Duffy said. “That represents exactly what we’re opposed to.”
South Korean researchers, funded by their government, reported producing human embryos through cloning and then extracting their stem cells. It is a major advancement in the quest to grow patients’ own replacement tissue to treat diseases.
The president also threatened a veto of legislation that would clear the way for taxpayer money to be spent on embryonic stem cell research.
A measure by Reps. Mike Castle, R-Del., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., would lift Bush’s 2001 ban on the use of federal dollars for research using any new embryonic stem cell lines. Bush said he would veto such a measure if it reached his desk.
“I made very clear to Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayer’s money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life — I’m against that,” Bush said. “Therefore, if the bill does that, I would veto it.”
'Promise for cures'
But Duffy said the administration looked favorably at a bill to encourage stem cell research that uses blood from umbilical cords. That measure is being pushed by House Republican leaders as an alternate to the Castle-DeGette bill. Duffy stopped short of endorsing the alternate legislation but said it has promise.
DeGette said in a statement that it was “disappointing that the president would threaten to use his first veto on a bill that holds promise for cures to diseases that affect millions of Americans. Support for expanding federal stem cell research in an ethical manner remains strong in Congress.”
Castle also defended the bill, saying, “Under no circumstances does this legislation allow for the creation of embryos for research nor does it fund the destruction of embryos.”
Bush, in his fifth year in office, has not yet exercised his first veto. The White House also promised a veto this week of a highway bill if it exceeded the administration’s spending limits.
Bush began the day at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast where he was cheered for urging people to “pray that America uses the gift of freedom to build a culture of life.” The remark was a public reaffirmation of his position on sensitive issues such as abortion and stem cell research.
Bush recalled the legacy of the late Pope John Paul II and said, “The best way to honor this great champion of human freedom is to continue to build a culture of life where the strong protect the weak.”
Bush won 52 percent of the Roman Catholic vote in last year’s election and got the support of 56 percent of white Catholics, defeating the first Catholic presidential candidate from a major party since John F. Kennedy. In 2000, Bush narrowly lost the Catholic vote.
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