The Bush assministration hasn’t quite worked out all the nuances in its Hug an Embryo for Jeebus policy, as you can tell from today’s gaggle.
Q The Senate is now going to schedule a vote on the stem cell legislation that passed yesterday. What does President Bush think should be done with all of the frozen embryos in clinics that are not going to be used?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, the President talked about that very issue yesterday, and —
Q I don’t think he addressed that —
MR. McCLELLAN: I think — actually, I think he did. The President was pleased to welcome families here to the White House, families that had adopted children as embryos. It showed a life-affirming alternative that is available for people. And when it comes to frozen embryos, I think we have to keep in mind that it’s a small percentage overall that is actually used for research, or potentially discarded. And the President yesterday wanted to highlight what these families have done. The President believes we ought to encourage people to choose a life — a life-affirming alternative to the discarding of these embryos. And that alternative is adoption, because the President believes we should value life at every stage. And that’s — we should value life in America, and that means at all stages. And that’s what the President was talking about.
Now, in terms of the stem cell policy, the President was also making a very important principle — or stating a very important principle and what his policy is. The President’s policy is that we should not be using public dollars for the destruction of life. And that’s where — he believes very strongly in that ethical line, and that we should not cross that ethical line.
Q But for the families who do not wish to have their frozen embryos given up for adoption, are you — is the President saying that those should just be held forever?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that’s the choice of the parents.
Q But he’d rather have them discarded than used for medical research?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don’t think that’s what the President said. I think the President said what I just said.
Q Can I just follow on that, Scott, because certainly adoption of additional embryos is a terrific alternative, but, I mean, do you really mean to suggest that those people who support stem cell research and public funding for it, for the promise that that holds in the scientific community, is that not life affirming, as well?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’m not suggesting anything of that nature.
Keep in mind that the President instituted a policy where it has now led to federal funding for some 600 stem cell lines that have been sent to researchers. There are more than 3,000 that are available and waiting to be used for research, as well. We want to explore the promise, but we’re still in the very early stages of that.
Q You’re making a judgment —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, but let me —
Q — there was a big debate about the existing lines —
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but let me make — I’m coming to an important point, because the President talked about this yesterday. He talked about how the decisions we make today have far-reaching consequences.
And the one principle that is very important in his policy is that we shouldn’t be using public dollars to fund the destruction of life.
Q Yes, the President said yesterday that there are no spare embryos. I’m wondering what the President would say to those potential parents who create embryos knowing that some of them are going to be lost, some are going to end up frozen forever; in their efforts to create one child, one baby, that they are effectively destroying many embryos in order to do that. Does he see an irony in that?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think I just pointed out to you some of the facts about frozen embryos and I think you should listen to that. But the President supports in vitro fertilization. And I don’t think the way you characterize it in any way reflects his view.
Well, that’s about as clear as Colin Powell’s conscience, but what about the fact that technologically speaking South Korea is whizzing by us whil Chimpy plays with his fundie pals.
Q Scott, does the President have any concern that in this particular field of research, the United States, for all its technological genius, lags well behind many other countries in the world?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there is a lot of private research going on, as well.
Q That’s the stuff that’s at least, at the very minimal, keeping us in the game, but we’re well behind a number of —
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has worked to double funding for the National Institutes of Health. The President has provided substantial federal resources to exploring the promise of adult stem cell research, as well as embryonic stem cell research. But as I said, there are far-reaching consequences to the decisions that we make today. And the President believes we can do so — we can advance the promise of science in a way that meets our highest ethical standards. And that’s the approach he’s taken.
Q But the hard and fast fact is that even with the private research that is going on today, the United States lags well behind other countries in this field of research. And I’m just wondering if this President, who keeps on talking about science and technology, is concerned at all about that.
MR. McCLELLAN: John, actually, this is in the very early stages of its — the stem cell research is in its very early stages.
Q Right, as it gets further and further out, we’re falling further and further behind.
MR. McCLELLAN: We don’t know the full promise of it because it’s in its very basic research stages. And that’s why the President has put forward a policy that he did to be the first President to provide federal resources for embryonic stem cell research, as well as significantly increase funding for adult stem cell research.
You know as well as others that adult stem cell research is showing tremendous promise. We also strongly support the legislation for umbilical cord blood stem cell research and believe it’s important to move forward on that legislation, too.