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Gazette State Bureau

HELENA — The anti-abortion group Montana Right to Life criticized U.S. Sen. Max Baucus Monday for his stance on embryonic stem-cell research.

In a written statement Monday, the Montana Democrat said he supports stem-cell research “because it holds the potential to save millions of human lives” and urged President George Bush to adopt a rule allowing federal funding of experiments using embryonic stem cells. Baucus also joined at least 49 other senators in signing a letter in support of embryonic stem-cell research, according to a press release from Montana Right to Life,

But Montana Right to Life executive director Steve Ertelt said in a press release that his organization cannot support research that “demands one life be destroyed to save another.”

Scientists have found that embryonic stem cells can grow into any tissue or organ in the body, making them particularly useful in developing potential cures for many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Stem cells can also be culled from adult bone marrow or fat, but those cells are more limited in what they can potentially become.

Baucus said research using embryonic stem cells must be closely monitored to prevent unethical practices in deriving the cells.

But, he added: “I am confident that proposed studies by American scientists to research embryonic stem cells — cells derived from embryos that could otherwise be lawfully discarded — are fully consistent with the high ethical standards I expect from the medical community.”

Ertelt said Montana Right to Life fully supports research using stem cells taken from adults, miscarried embryos, umbilical cords and umbilical cord blood and cadavers, so long as the process doesn’t involve destroying a potentially viable embryo.

He called on President George Bush, Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., to oppose federal funding for research using embryonic stem cells.

Burns spokesman J.P. Donovan said Monday that Burns “has really got to look at this one.”

“Stem-cell research in general and the federal funding of such is a very deep and complex issue, and Sen. Burns feels very strongly that he would like to review this and get all sides to the issue before he makes a decision,” Donovan said.

Rehberg was unavailable for comment.For related story, click here.

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