In August 2001, President Bush sharply curbed embryonic stem cell research, funding only research on “existing stem cell lines.” Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thomspson told the World Stem Cell Summit this week that Bush came to the decision after consulting with he and Karl Rove over lunch in summer 2001:
Bush asked Thompson and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove to lunch. “He says, ‘Gentlemen, I want you to debate embryonic stem cells for me,’” Thompson said. “He says. ‘Karl, I know you’re opposed to it, and Tommy, you’re for it. I want to learn about it.’” Thompson said he told the president “every American” has a relative or friend who has suffered from diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. [...]
On Aug. 9, 2001, Bush announced he would allow federal funding for the research of 78 lines of embryonic stem cells. Prior to that, the administration refused to fund any research involving embryonic stem cells, and Rove aimed to continue that policy. “I’m absolutely certain if that lunch had not taken place, the research of the 78 lines would not have taken place,” Thompson said.
In contrast to Thompson’s claim, Bush’s decision was harmful to science — not a small victory. Rove has no background in health care or science. In the past, he falsely claimed that science has “far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells.”