HAMPTON, N.H. – John Kerry (search) said Monday that President Bush has sacrificed hopes for disease cures offered by stem cell research to "extreme right-wing ideology."
The Democratic presidential candidate, with actor and activist Michael J. Fox (search), promised to fund more embryonic stem cell research with federal money if elected. A new campaign ad says it's time to "lift the political barriers" blocking the exploration of stem cell therapies.
"The hard truth is that when it comes to stem cell research, this president is making the wrong choice to sacrifice science for extreme right-wing ideology," Kerry said.
Kerry criticized Bush's decision to prohibit federal funding for research on embryonic stem cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001. Some religious and conservative organizations oppose such research because days-old embryos are destroyed in the process.
Kerry called it "a far-reaching ban on federal funding for stem cell research, tying the hands of our scientists, driving some of them away from America."
Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, told voters gathered in a high school gym that Bush had "so restricted the stem cell lines available to us that it was kind of like he gave us a car and no gas and congratulated himself for giving us the car."
The Bush-Cheney campaign said the president's decision represents a federal commitment to using the promise of stem cell research in an ethical way.
"Saying that the president's action banned stem cell research is false," said spokesman Steve Schmidt. "Stem cell research of any kind is perfectly legal."
Kerry promises $100 million a year flowing into the research and strict ethical oversight.
The Massachusetts senator gets some of his biggest cheers at campaign rallies when he promises to fund more stem cell research, one aspect of a pledge to increase federal support of science.
Ticking off a list of scientific and environmental issues — water quality, air quality, global warming, high-tech jobs — Kerry said the president repeatedly ignores science and fact in favor of politics.
"This underscores, in my judgment, the perils of having the president who turns his back on science in favor of ideology and as a result abandons millions of Americans' hopes," he said.
Stem cell research got national political attention this summer when President Reagan died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease and his wife and son Ron urged the administration to lift the funding restrictions. Kerry was among 58 senators who asked Bush to relax his policy.
Voters in California will be asked whether they support a proposition to borrow $3 billion and fund human embryonic stem cell research and cloning projects designed solely for therapeutic purposes. Fox has been active in efforts to pass the proposition along with other research initiatives.
Stem cells are master cells that can turn into all the cells, tissues and organs in the human body. Scientists believe they hold promise for treating many diseases.