President Bush used his veto power for the first time in his five-year presidency yesterday when he held a ceremony in the White House to veto legislation that would have allowed federal funding to be used for embryonic stem cell research. Just hours later, in a vote of 235 to 193, the House of Representatives failed by 51 votes to gain the two-thirds majority required to override the veto.
The veto came in the face of significant public support for the research that would be generated by the legislation including possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries. Bush announced his decision to reject the bill surrounded by a group of parents with babies born through in vitro fertilization, using what Bush calls “adopted” frozen embryos, reports The New York Times. In his speech, Bush said that passage of the bill “would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others.”
The bill would have allowed federal funding to be used to conduct medical research using embryos that are scheduled to be destroyed in fertility clinics in the U.S. It is estimated that the majority of the approximately 400,000 embryos currently stored will be destroyed as couples who do not want to use them prefer not to allow someone else to give birth to a child with their genetic makeup reported the Washington Post.
Reacting to the action taken by Bush, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) told the Washington Post that the veto was, “a shameful display of cruelty, hypocrisy and ignorance.”