Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Kerry slams Bush on stem-cell issue

By Nedra Pickler
The Associated Press

HAMPTON, N.H. - John Kerry on Monday accused President Bush of restricting potentially lifesaving stem cell research because of "extreme right-wing ideology" and underscored his own strong support for research that polls show has widespread backing.

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The Democratic senator spoke in a high school gymnasium alongside actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, and others who told emotional stories of their own diseases or those of family members and urged Kerry's election because of the stem cell issue.

"I will stop at nothing to get stem cell research moving forward in this country," Kerry said. He said Bush had dismissed the judgment of scientists who say embryonic stem cell research could eventually lead to disease cures.

"This underscores, in my judgment, the perils of having a president who turns his back on science in favor of ideology, and as a result, abandons millions of Americans' hopes," Kerry said.

Kerry made the same point at a later stop in Philadelphia, and his campaign also unveiled a new TV ad that says it's time to "lift the political barriers" blocking the exploration of stem cell therapies.

Three years ago, Bush limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to the 78 stem cell lines in existence. Less than a third of those initial lines are available to researchers because of problems with the lines' growth or their ownership.

Kerry called Bush's action "a far-reaching ban on federal funding for stem cell research," a statement the president's campaign said wasn't true.

Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry was "trying to mislead the American people by implying a ban that doesn't exist."

Some religious groups oppose the scientific work in which the culling of stem cells kills the embryos, equating that with abortion. They did not want Bush to be the first president to fund the research - even with limits.

Proponents, including former first lady Nancy Reagan and 58 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, say the focus should be on the possibility of cures for diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. Former President Reagan suffered from the latter for a decade before his death June 5 due to related pneumonia.

Fox, best known for the "Back to the Future" movies and his role as young Republican Alex P. Keaton on the 1980s sitcom "Family Ties," has added star power to the debate. He said Monday that Bush's restriction on stem cell research "was kind of like he gave us a car and no gas, and congratulated himself for giving us the car."

Kerry mistakenly called the actor Michael Keaton, but straightened out Fox's real name from his character's name on the second reference.

"It's gotten so bad that even Alex Keaton would have shifted parties and voted for me this year," Kerry joked.

Recent polls have shown as many as 80 percent of respondents favoring stem cell research. A Pew Research Center poll balancing potential benefits and harm found 52 percent saying that conducting such research toward medical cures is more important than opposing it based on not destroying human embryos. Thirty-four percent said it was more important not to destroy human embryos.

Others at Kerry's town hall meeting told stories of personal struggles with disease. Steve Walter, who said he was a registered Republican from Londonderry, held up a package of insulin needles to show how many injections he has to give his 7-year-old son each day to deal with juvenile diabetes. Beth Salzman of Bedford told of helping her sister cope with Alzheimer's in her 50s.

"It's in my prayers, my pro-life prayers, that Senator Kerry will be our next president," Salzman said.

An 80-year-old woman in the audience rose and interrupted Kerry to say that she suffers with primary pulmonary hypertension. "I know that there won't be any cure in time for me. I'm voting for you and everything you stand for."

The woman left the room with the assistance of a friend, and Kerry turned to the crowd. "I've got to tell you, folks, when you hear somebody stand up and say to you, I support you, but it's too late for me, that's pretty tough."


On the Net:

Kerry campaign: http://www.johnkerry.com

Bush campaign: http://www.georgewbush.com

Campaigns war over Cleveland
Voter signups record in Ohio
Ohio court race attracts big money
Kerry slams Bush on stem-cell issue
Blackwell dismissive after Jackson blasts voting rule
Nader sues to be included on Ohio ballot
Bush enacts more tax cuts as he campaigns
Cheney-Edwards debate takes on increased importance
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