Edwards Pledges to Lift Bush Curbs on Stem-Cell Work; Funding 'Ban' Claim Is Disputed

Article excerpt

Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards yesterday assailed the Bush administration's policy on embryonic stem-cell research, promising to overturn it if elected, but Republicans countered by saying the policy is being misrepresented.

"We have a plan to have groundbreaking stem-cell research done ... they are blocking that research," the North Carolina senator said of the Bush administration. "The research that needs to be conducted and can be conducted is being stopped by the administration's policy."

Mr. Edwards promised that he and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, if elected, would overturn Mr. Bush's "ban" on federal funding for research on new embryonic stem-cell lines. An earlier Kerry-Edwards press release went even further, calling the administration's policy a flat-out "ban on federal funding of embryonic stem- cell research."

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of Mr. Bush's policy, which limited federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research to 60 embryonic stem-cell lines that already had been created as of August 2001.

Critics say the limited policy is slowing research in a critical field that could yield cures for many diseases. Conservatives and religious groups, however, argue that destroying embryos to gather their stem cells is morally wrong. Mr. Bush's policy attempts to strike a middle ground.

But a top White House official said the Kerry-Edwards campaign is distorting the truth by calling Mr. Bush's policy "a ban" on federal funding.

"That is blatantly false and misleading and really speaks to a serious credibility problem," said senior White House adviser Jay Lefkowitz during a Bush-Cheney '04 conference call yesterday.

Mr. Lefkowitz said Mr. Bush's policy, announced in August 2001, actually marked the first time the U.S. government authorized the funding of embryonic stem-cell research. …