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Bush Nears A Stem Cell Decision

CBS News has learned the hot political question of whether the federal government will put its money muscle behind stem cell research is going to get answered this month.

George W. Bush will announce his decision sometime during his vacation, reports CBS News's Bill Plante. Mr. Bush is still consulting with authorities in science and ethics - but he promised Friday to have a decision before Congress returns in September.

Either way, a lot of people are going to be unhappy. During the campaign, and as recently as May 18, Mr. Bush said he opposes funding for stem cell research because it "involves destroying living human embryos."

It would therefore be a political slap to the face of America's social conservatives if Mr. Bush reversed course and permitted such funding.

American Life League President Judie Brown, for example, said that using human embryos to harvest stem cells amounts to killing one group to save another. Brown said Friday that, even though Mr. Bush is anti-abortion rights, he would not be considered "pro-life" if he allowed federal money for such research.

Yet there is pressure to support research using frozen embryos. Researchers hope to find treatments for a host of diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's - and prominent Republicans, from Sen. Orrin Hatch and Bill Frist to former first lady Nancy Reagan, want the research funded.

In a further political wrinkle, Pope John Paul last month cautioned Mr. Bush - who has been courting Catholic voters - against the creation and destruction of embryos for such research.

Stem cells are master cells that can transform themselves into other types of cells in the body. They offer the potential of regenerating damaged organs or tissue.

The stem cells are typically obtained from human embryos discarded during fertility treatments, although they can also be found in adult tissue.

Mr. Bush begins a month-long vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Saturday.

"I think he is going to think about it while he is at the ranch ... an announcement is possible at any time while he is there," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.

Fleischer said Mr. Bush was continuing to consult on the issue. "He's continuing to think about it. He continues to talk to people, to meet with people. And he continues to listen to various sides of the issue, and then, I think you'll see him stop, ponder, think and then announce," he said.

©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters Limited contributed to this report

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