President Bush, at the national Catholic prayer breakfast, stressed his opposition to easing restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, a reference to a bill he's threatened to veto.
"In our day there is a temptation to manipulate life in ways that do not respect the humanity of the person," Bush said Friday. "When that happens, the most vulnerable among us can be valued for their utility to others instead of their own inherent worth."
The Senate on Wednesday voted 63-34 to pass the measure that it hopes will lead to new medical treatments. The vote, however, fell short of a veto-proof margin needed to enact the law over Bush's objections. The House is expected to approve a similar measure in the weeks ahead.
"We must continue to work for a culture of life where the strong protect the weak and where we recognize in every human life the image of our creator," Bush said.
His brief speech also included a call to Congress to pass immigration reform, a prayer for U.S. troops serving abroad and praise for Catholic schools across America. Later Friday, Bush planned to meet with parochial education leaders and parents at the White House.
The prayer breakfast at a Washington hotel attracted religious leaders, members of Congress, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito and top government officials. After the president spoke, a female heckler shouted "War criminal! War criminal!" It was unclear whether the president heard her.
Bush, a Methodist, noted that this year's prayer breakfast occurred the Friday after Lent.
"You can eat your bacon in good conscience," he joked.