Saturday, August 11, 2001

Chabot: Stem-cell plan rides slippery slope

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve Chabot said Friday that President Bush's decision to spend federal money on limited embryonic stem-cell research may cross a moral line that could be difficult for the government to retract.

        “It's somewhat of a slippery slope,” said Mr. Chabot, R-Ohio, who opposes embryonic stem-cell research for religious and moral reasons.

        The president agreed to let the federal government sponsor research on stem cells already extracted from human embryos but said the government would not endorse destroying more embryos for medical research.

        Many conservatives were comforted by Mr. Bush's comments about the need to protect human life in all of its forms but were disappointed that he would allow even limited federal research after opposing embryo-destruction during the presidential campaign. Meanwhile, several researchers complained that the president's decision was much too narrow.

        Mr. Chabot said the government should focus on research on stem cells taken from placentas, umbilical cord blood or fetuses that perished during miscarriages or from natural causes. Some researchers believe adult stem cells have potential as replacement cells to cure disease, but most researchers consider stem cells taken from embryos as the most valuable.

        “We can avoid the moral issue of destroying what many people in this country consider human life,” he said.

        Mr. Chabot said it was a close call on whether Mr. Bush backtracked on a campaign promise.

        Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has been torn over the issue, said he was concerned that the president did not put enough emphasis on alternatives to embryonic stem-cell research or propose federal restrictions on private research.

        He also said the government should provide greater assurances that federal research on stem-cell lines does not expand into embryo research.

        “Recent reports that some scientists have created embryos for the sole purpose of experimenting on them are very disturbing, and I hope the president's new council will act quickly to prevent this troubling practice,” he said.

        Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., who recently had been undecided, supported the president's decision but wondered whether federal spending should be expanded to include research on embryos that fertility clinics otherwise would discard.

        The government likely would be under increased pressure to approve more federal research if initial studies helped lead to new treatments or cures for disease.

        Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who also had been undecided, said the president's announcement was a good compromise.

        “It preserves the sanctity of life and allows limited research that could help millions of Americans suffering from life-threatening diseases,” he said.

        Among Tristate lawmakers, only Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, aggressively supports federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

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