President Bush does not consider stem cell research using human embryos to be murder, the White House said yesterday, reversing its description of his position just days after he vetoed legislation to lift federal funding restrictions on the hotly disputed area of study.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said yesterday that he "overstated the president’s position" during a briefing last week but said Bush rejected the bill because "he does have objections with spending federal money on something that is morally objectionable to many Americans."
The shifting terminology underscored the sensitivity of the issue, especially heading into midterm elections. Many antiabortion conservatives strongly oppose stem cell research involving the destruction of embryos, viewing it as killing human beings. But polls show that most Americans see such research as a potential key to treating Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries and other afflictions.
Two governors seized the political moment Thursday, the day after the veto, to raise their ante for stem cell research.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican who helped Mr. Bush win a second term but has long disagreed with him on this research, cited the veto as he lent $150 million from the state’s general fund to pay for grants to stem cell scientists. In Illinois, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, a Democrat opposed to most every White House initiative, offered $5 million for similar grants in his state.
Before the announcements, the only money available was $72 million that five states had allocated for the research and $90 million that the National Institutes of Health had provided since 2001 for work on a restricted number of stem cell lines.
Several other governors, including one Republican, M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, denounced the president’s veto, his first, in a sign of the political potency of the stem cell debate.
The European Union decided Monday to continue funding human embryonic stem cell research, although under new rules that prevent human cloning and destroying embryos.
The funding will come from the EU’s $65 billion research budget for 2007-2013, when the new rules approved Monday expire.
Poland, Austria, Malta, Slovakia and Lithuania voted against the updated rules for "ethical and moral" reasons, they said. Germany and Italy changed their stance at the last moment and backed the proposal.