Washington President Bush cast the first veto of his 5 1/2-year presidency Wednesday, saying legislation easing limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell "crosses a moral boundary" and is wrong.
"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life of the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said at a White House event where he was surrounded by 18 families who "adopted" frozen embryos not used by other couples, and then used those leftover embryos to have children.
"Each of these children was still adopted while still an embryo and has been blessed with a chance to grow, to grow up in a loving family. These boys and girls are not spare parts," he said.
The veto came a day after the Senate defied Bush and approved the legislation, 63-37, four votes short of the two-thirds margin needed to override. White House officials and Republican congressional leaders claimed it was unlikely that Congress could override the veto.
Bush's support was the strongest in the House, which was expected to take up the veto as early as later Wednesday.
Bush has supported federally funded research on only those stem cell lines created before Aug. 9, 2001, the date of his speech to the nation on the subject.
The president vetoed the measure shortly after it came to his desk. His position was politically popular among conservative Republicans, and it was sure to be an issue in the midterm congressional elections.
Announcing the veto, Bush was surrounded in the East Room by so-called "snowflake" families, those with children born through embryo donation.
"They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. The remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells. And they remind us that in our zeal for new treatments and cures, America must never abandon our fundamental morals," Bush said.
He said the bill would have crossed a line and "once crossed, we would find it impossible to turn back."
At the same time, Bush announced he had signed another bill, passed unanimously in the House and Senate, that would pre-emptively ban "fetal farming," the prospect of raising and aborting fetuses for scientific research.