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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 11, 2001
Radio Address by the President to the Nation
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I made a decision on a complex and difficult issue, the federal role in embryonic stem cell research. Based on preliminary work, scientists believe these cells, which may have the ability to replace diseased or defective human tissue, offer great promise. They could help improve the lives of those who suffer from many terrible diseases -- from juvenile diabetes to Alzheimer's, from Parkinson's to spinal cord injuries.
While stem cells come from a variety of sources, most scientists, at least today, believe that research on stem cells from human embryos offers the most promise because these cells have the potential to develop into all the tissues of the body.
This research offers great hope for treatments and possible cures. Research on embryonic stem cells also raises profound ethical questions because extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus destroys the potential for life.
Some argue this small cluster of cells is not yet a human life because it cannot develop on its own. Yet an ethicist argued this is the same way you and I started our lives. One goes with a heavy heart if we use these, he said, because we are dealing with the seeds of the next generation.
At its core, this issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science. It lies at a difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the need to protect life in all its phases with the prospect of saving and improving life in all its stages. As the genius of science extends the horizons of what we can do, we increasingly confront complex problems about what we should do.
In recent weeks we learned that scientists have created human embryos in test tubes solely to experiment on them. This is deeply troubling, and a warning sign that should prompt all of us to think through these issues very carefully. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts or creating life for our convenience. I strongly oppose cloning. And while we must devote enormous energy to conquering disease, it is equally important that we pay attention to the moral concerns raised by the new frontier of human embryo stem cell research. Even the most noble ends do not justify any means.
Embryonic stem cell research offers both great promise and great peril. So I have decided we must proceed with great care. As a result of private research, more than 60 genetically diverse stem cell lines already exist. They were created from embryos that have already been destroyed, and they have the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely, creating ongoing opportunities for research. I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem cell lines where the life and death decision has already been made.
Leading scientists tell me research on these 60 lines has great promise that could lead to breakthrough therapies and cures. This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line, by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life.
I also believe that great scientific progress can be made through aggressive federal funding of research on umbilical cord, placenta, adult and animal stem cells, which do not involve the same moral dilemma. This year the government will spend $250 million on this important research.
As we go forward, I hope we'll always be guided by both intellect and heart, by both our capabilities and our conscience. I have made this decision with great care, and I pray it is the right one.
Thank you for listening.