Tuesday, August 14, 2001

N.Ky. group supports stem-cell policy

But they worry additional embryos will be used

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LAKESIDE PARK — Northern Kentucky's newest anti-abortion group is largely in favor of President Bush's approval of limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

        The comments on stem cells are among the first public policy statements from the Citizens Coalition for Life, a group opposed to abortion that went public in June after months of organizing and recruiting members.

        Clare Ruehl of Lakeside Park, a long-time abortion opponent and a leading member of the Citizens Coalition for Life, said the organization has mixed feelings about Mr. Bush's decision.

        Mrs. Ruehl said the group is encouraged that Mr. Bush approved $250 million in federal funding this year for research on only 60 stem-cell lines that have been harvested.

        Stem cells are master cells that can generate body tissue. Scientists believe the cures for many diseases could be unlocked from research using stem cells.

        The coalition is hopeful the president's decision will lead to new treatments for patients with disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and spinal cord injuries.

        But the group's main concern is that Mr. Bush's stance will lead to stem cells being harvested from additional human embryos, which kills the embryo and is the equivalent of taking a life, Mrs. Ruehl said Monday.

        “Even in the smallest form we must protect (life) and defend it, while at the same time seriously search for solutions that will alleviate pain and suffering from those terrible diseases,” she said.

        Coalition President Paul Meisenhelder of Newport said that while he was pleased with most of what Mr. Bush said, he is concerned the decision “opens the door” for the harvesting of human embryos.

        “I can see in the future scientists or the federal government coming back in a few years and saying, "Hey, the research is going good but we need some more embryos.' That concerns me about this whole thing.

        “I wish (Mr. Bush) would have gone a little farther ... but overall I couldn't have expected any thing better from a national politician on this topic,” Mr. Meisenhelder said.

        The coalition is also the Northern Kentucky chapter of Kentucky Right to Life, the statewide anti-abortion group based in Louisville.

        According to a Kentucky Right to Life statement, it “appreciates President Bush's statement to not allow federal funding of stem-cell research that involves the killing of any more human embryos.”

        “President Bush recognizes the humanity of these tiny human beings called embryos and believes that they possess an inalienable right to life.

        “However, we must never forget that these existing stem-cell lines were obtained by destroying innocent human lives.”

        Kentucky Right to Life is also hopeful the research will lead to “promising alternatives” for treating diseases.

        Robert Cetrulo, the Covington attorney who leads the region's other anti-abortion group — Northern Kentucky Right to Life — did not return a phone call to comment on the president's decision.


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