Washington, DC -- A spokesman for pro-life President-elect George W. Bush reiterated Bush's pro-life stance on the issue of stem cell research using stem cells from unborn children.
Press secretary Ari Fleischer, quoting his boss' statements during the campaign, said Bush "would oppose federally funded research for experimentation on embryonic stem cells that require live human embryos to be discarded or destroyed."
But Fleischer, questioned by reporters, did not say whether Bush intends to block the National Institutes of Health, which is now accepting grant applications for research on embryonic stem cells harvested by private researchers.
"I think (Bush's) statement speaks for itself. And I'm not going to go beyond that," Fleischer said. "During the campaign president-elect Bush said that he would oppose using taxpayer funds to support fetal tissue research from induced abortions," Fleischer told reporters.
Another Bush spokesman, Scott McClelland, later added: "The president-elect's position is clear. He opposes federal funds for research that involves destroying living human embryos. ... As we have previously indicated, we intend to review all rules and executive orders implemented by the Clinton administration."
The future of embryonic stem cell research, which scientists believe can lead to miracle treatments for Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, is expected to be a central question in the Senate confirmation hearings of pro-life Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, Bush's nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the NIH.
Thompson recently dodged the question, telling reporters only: "I am a pro-life governor."
Dr. John Gearhart of Johns Hopkins University said things do not look good for the research. "Whether it's Mr. Bush or Mr. Thompson, with the conservative bent on this, one has reason to be concerned," Gearhart said.
Pro-life advocates say such research is immoral because the extraction of stem cells from an unborn child kills the baby. They and Bush support research on cells from adult tissue which, as McClelland said, "would not necessitate killing a live human embryo."
Federal law prohibits the use of government funds to derive embryonic stem or "master" cells. The new NIH guidelines allow private researchers to extract - and then pass along to federally funded scientists - stem cells from unborn children.