Friday, August 10, 2001

Some locals back policy; others critical

By Emily Biuso and Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        President Bush's decision to support limited embryonic stem cell research triggered swift, sharp response late Thursday in the Tristate.

        No one was entirely pleased.

        Dr. John Willke, one of the founders of the national Right to Life movement, said he was disappointed that Mr. Bush's position was a compromise. The president should have focused more on the alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, Dr. Willke said.

        “These were taken from living humans who have been killed,” he said. “Adult stem cells have been shown to cure diabetes.”

        Kathy Helmbock, a longtime spokeswoman for Cincinnati's chapter of the National Organization for Women graded Mr. Bush's decision a C-minus.

        “This decision will not please those extremists on the one side and will not please those who want to go full speed ahead on stem-cell research,” she said.

        “But it's better than a complete ban.”

        Ms. Helmbock said she hopes members of Congress push for legislation that would mandate funding for embryonic research.

        Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, said he's troubled that existing stem cells wil be used in federally sponsored research. But, “We're pleased that President Bush's decision means the federal government will not be funding the killing of human embryos as part of stem-cell research.” The issue is difficult for lawmakers, many of whom have listened to personal appeals from constituents, either desperate for cures or frightened of the ethical dilemmas of research.

        Only one Tristate lawmaker, Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, has aggressively backed federal financing for embryonic stem-cell research.

        Mr. Strickland said he is encouraged by the decision to allow some research, but that the constraints may delay progress.

        “Strong federal involvement in this research is the only way to ensure that all Americans benefit from the resulting discoveries and to guarantee that there are appropriate safeguards against unethical practices,” he said.

        Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., was undecided a few weeks ago but has since said he is open to research on material that otherwise would be thrown away. He also wants a rigid set of ethical guidelines to go along with federal money.

        Many, like Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky., oppose it for moral reasons and believe research should concentrate on adult stem cells.

        Mr. Chabot has backed an alternative that would provide $30 million next year for research on adult stem cells. Many conservatives, like Mr. Chabot, are against embryonic stem-cell research because most of the studies have been on embryos from fertility clinics or fetal tissue recovered from abortions.

        Ohio Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, both Republicans; and Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., oppose federal funding.

        Sen Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio — have said they are undecided.

        Ky. Rep. Tom Kerr, a Democrat from Taylor Mill, said he was sorry to hear Mr. Bush refer to the stem cells as “potential life. That's based upon my belief that life begins at conception.”


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