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Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Legislation

President Bush has vetoed legislation lifting restrictions on federally funded medical research that uses cells from human embryos. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports defenders of embryonic stem cell research are vowing to fight on.

This is the second time in 11 months that President Bush has vetoed a stem cell bill.

Stem cells have the ability to regenerate into all kinds of specific cells in the human body, and scientists say they hold promise for breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of serious diseases.

But President Bush says destroying an embryo to obtain its stem cells is tantamount to taking human life, and he says taxpayer money can not be used for this purpose.

"I made it clear to Congress and the American people I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line," said President Bush. "Last year, Congress passed a similar bill. I kept my promise by vetoing it. And today I am keeping my word again. I am vetoing the bill that Congress has sent."

At a ceremony at the White House, the president signed an executive order urging government agencies to look into alternatives to embryonic stem cells. He said advances in science are creating new options.

"For example, several new studies released earlier this month show the potential of reprogramming adult cells, such as skin cells, to make them function like stem cells," he said.

The president put restrictions on federally funded stem cell research in 2001, limiting access only to embryonic cells that had already been harvested from embryos. Researchers have since complained that some of those so-called cell lines were damaged and the overall number was too low.

The issue got significant attention during the 2004 presidential campaign, and could do so again in 2008.

Democratic presidential hopefuls were among the first to speak out against the president's veto, including Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. House Democrats went before reporters just moments after Mr. Bush spoke to decry his decision.

Among them was Colorado Congresswoman Donna DeGette.

"Despite passing both houses of Congress with broad, bipartisan majorities, the president has once again turned his back on Congress and the American people," said Donna DeGette.

Although the bill passed the House and Senate with solid support, the majority fell short of the two-thirds votes needed to override a presidential veto.

This is only the third time that President Bush has vetoed legislation passed by Congress. In addition to the earlier stem cell bill, he vetoed a war spending bill on May 1 that included a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Congress worked with the White House to reach a compromise on the war funding measure, but it is less likely they will reach a meeting of the minds on stem cells.