Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Larry King Live
Did President Bush Make the Right Decision on Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
Aired August 09, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Thank you, Aaron, and some very appropriate guests coming up to discuss it. We begin in our New York bureau with Mary Tyler Moore, the award winning actress, the international chairman of the juvenile diabetes research foundation who testified on this topic.
And with us on the phone, from a vacation resort is Christopher Reeve, the actor and activist who was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1995 riding accident.
Mary, your first reaction to what the president said?
MARY TYLER MOORE, ACTRESS: Well, I am so pleased with the thought and care that he put into making this decision. And I think it is a good one. I was not aware -- or when I say "I" I should say the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation -- was not aware that there are, in fact, 60 embryos waiting. But if there are, that is good. That is better than 6 or 7 or 8, which would have really posed a problem.
I welcome the forming of this council that he spoke about. And I hope that the JDFR will be able to work with him, with the council, on making sure that the guidelines are pure and straight.
KING: So you are giving this a thumbs up?
MOORE: I am.
KING: Christopher Reeve on the phone. I know you have shared with Mary And appeared with her on occasion discussing this. What is your thought?
CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: A little bit more mixed, Larry. I feel that nobody really knew that there were 60 stem cells available. And I don't know that these lines have been examined to know how well they would work or what condition they are in. And I think that that is something that should have been done.
However, I think it is a step in the right direction. I'm grateful for that to the president.
KING: So are you going to join Mary, even with hesitation as to the questionability of these existing cells, you are going to go thumbs-up, too?
REEVE: Well, actually, I think what needs to happen is the matter ought to go before Congress, and that legislation should be introduced to adopt the Clinton guidelines that were put in place several years ago that allow broader research than this.
KING: Mary, were you surprised at all by anything he said?
MOORE: I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people the variation of the kinds of people with whom he had counsel. I think he is -- he has delved into his heart and his religious beliefs. And I think you -- when you do that you think very carefully. I'm pleased, I am very pleased. We always wish it were more, but you know this -- compared to what we were all fearing might happen, this is good.
KING: Christopher Reeve, frankly, did you expect more?
REEVE: No. I didn't, actually, because I know how difficult this was for the president to try to play all sides politically, and I don't think he did it just politically, I do believe he really thought about it.
I'm just disappointed because I think it will slow down progress. The scientists that I have talked to really feel that you need new stem cells that are going to be discarded from fertility clinics anyway. And that old frozen ones may not do the job. So I'm a little bit concerned and I don't know where this 60 stem cell lines come from.
That is something of a surprise that needs to be looked into.
KING: And what do you think about the idea of a council, Chris?
REEVE: That is a very, very good idea. I think -- again, he is turning to more and more people for advice. That is a very good sign.
MOORE: I think what's wonderful, too, is that this means that the United States will maintain its leadership in things medical and scientific. There are so many countries in Asia, and Europe that are already doing these experimentations, and JDFR's fear was that this one company that has the hold on these stem cells will make it very difficult for people in the world to do anything without paying the price. So this is a very good thing.
KING: And Christopher, do you think Congress might take it further?
REEVE: Yes. There already is legislation that has been developed by Senator Harkin and Senator Specter that has wide support in the Senate, and as you remember, 212 members of the House have wrote to the president urging him to allow all kinds of stem-cell research without those limitations. I believe that Congress and the Senate will this up and go further.
KING: I thank you very much, Christopher. Thanks for joining us on vacation. How are you doing, by the way?
REEVE: Doing very well, thank you. Glad to be on vacation.
KING: Good to hear you. And Mary the fight continues, but this is for your stand point a plus night?
KING: Thank you both very much. We are going to get the other view on what might be considered the other side from Dr. James Dobson, the founder and president of "Focus on the Family," syndicated radio commentator and best-selling author. He is in Colorado Springs and he is with us next, on LARRY KING LIVE. Stay there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem cell lines, where the life-and-death decision has already been made.
Leading scientists tell me research on these 60 lines has great promise that could lead to breakthrough therapies and cures. This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem-cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This is special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, following the president's first-ever primetime address to the nation. He chose stem cell research as the topic.
Joining us now from Colorado Springs is Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family. Your reaction?
JAMES DOBSON, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Well, Larry, I didn't think it was going to be likely that I would come out of this evening agreeing with Christopher and Mary, but there is a lot here that I can agree with. And I give the president's decision generally a thumbs-up. There are still some aspects to it that we want to look at, but I think he found a good solution for this stage.
KING: So you're saying, Dr. Dobson, he has appealed to both sides on this issue?
DOBSON: Amazingly, I think he has. From our perspective, he didn't call for federal funds to be expended to take human life, to kill those little embryos. That was our great concern. That had us in prayer this afternoon, frankly, 1,300 of us.
We were pleased by the fact that he -- he may not have said it directly, but he implied that life begins at conception. That's a good thing. And although we grieve the loss of the babies that were sacrificed for the cells that now exist, they are now gone, and these cells are there. And I think we can live with that.
We're going to have to analyze it in the days ahead.
KING: What did you think of this idea of a council?
DOBSON: I think it's a great idea. Leon Kass is a good man, and he wrote a book opposing cloning. I think he's a good choice for that assignment, too. So I think the president has done well tonight.
KING: The thought of the 60 existing stem cell lines, since they have already been removed from the embryo, what possible argument could you have with that at all?
DOBSON: Well, I don't think we can. Obviously, our greatest concern is that it might open the door to further research. You never know where they're going to go. And it sometimes is a bait-and-switch plan where we think there's a limitation to what is going to be done, and then it grows.
And this is an issue that's going to be like setting fire to a sack, a paper sack. I mean, you can't control it. It's going to flare up in your face if we don't do it very, very carefully, and it looks to me like the president has done that.
KING: You must, Dr. Dobson -- we've talked many times -- empathize with the other side here, people who have juvenile diabetes and their family, people who have Alzheimer's, people who are encouraged by the fact that progress can be made from this, seemingly an item that gets thrown out.
DOBSON: Yes. Larry, of course, we empathize with them. And how could we not? I mean, for Christopher Reeve to be hoping against hope that there would be a miracle cure that would get him out of that wheelchair, that would be a wonderful thing: not only for him, but tens of thousands of others who are disabled. We support research, and we support federal funding of research. But we don't support research that takes a life.
And if you can kill an embryo in order to make use of that little cell in the lives of others, then why not six months later, eight months later, why not take a child at eight months who's going to be sacrificed with -- by partial birth abortion? Why couldn't you say, well, they're going to die anyway, so, let's take the kidneys and the eyes and the corneas, and let's take the heart, and let's let some child have them?
Once you start doing that, it is a slippery slope down which humanity will slide, and I am grateful that the president did not do that tonight.
KING: Do you think the people involved in in-vitro, the parents, have any say in the unused embryos?
DOBSON: Well, that is a -- that's another issue. Obviously, they do have legal rights to those cells. What is incredible is where those cells have been, those embryos have been given to women who are willing to carry them to term. I had one of them here two days ago on my lap. Mary Tyler Moore referred to them as little goldfish.
I tell you what, I held a little 2-year-old goldfish on my lap, and she sang a song to me. She said, "Jesus loves the little children and all the children of the world."
We must not forget that they are human beings. They -- you and I started that way, as did our children, Larry, and we must protect them. And again I'm thankful that that has happened.
KING: And so this tonight is for you as well a plus. Thank you as always, Dr. Dobson. We'll be calling on you again. It's always good seeing you.
DOBSON: Thank you, Larry. It's nice talking to you.
KING: Dr. James Dobson.
Now when we come back, we'll be joined by Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, who supported embryonic stem cell research. He is with us in San Diego. And you're looking at Senator Sam Brownback on the right. Senator Brownback, Republican of Kansas, has opposed it. We'll get their thoughtful responses to the president's speech, and lots more guests coming as well on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Embryonic stem cell research offers both great promise and great peril. So I have decided we must proceed with great care.
As a result of private research, more than 60 genetically diverse stem cell lines already exist. They were created from embryos that have already been destroyed, and they have the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely, creating ongoing opportunities for research.
I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem cell lines, where the life-and- death decision has already been made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, following the president's address. Our next guests come to us from San Diego, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, who supported embryonic -- federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, and in Denver, Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who has opposed it as immoral, illegal and unnecessary.
Thus far, our three guests have all liked it, which is surprising. Senator Hatch, what have you made of the president's address? SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, you know he has been buffeted on all sides by everybody with an opinion on this matter, and I was really impressed that he took the time to really look at this, and do it in a deliberative, intelligent, thoughtful and prayerful manner. And that's what he did. And frankly, I was very pleased to see that he had consulted with ethicists, scientists religious leaders, and I believe others -- friends -- before he made this decision, and it's a thoughtful, decent, honorable decision.
And I was impressed with my good friend James Dobson and his comments, as well as those of Mary Tyler Moore and Christopher Reeve; I think they outlined this pretty well.
KING: So, are you saying, Senator Hatch, you are pleased with his decision to this minute?
HATCH: I am. I think it's the right decision, because what he's done, is he's come down on the side of facilitating life, and using these cells which would have been discarded anyway, for purposes that might alleviate the pain and suffering of upwards of 125 million people in this country who have one or more of these maladies that might be helped by embryonic stem cell research, while continuing to back adult stem cell research in the hope that that will be -- that will prove efficacious as well.
I think what he's done today is very intelligent. There is one worry, though, I would raise, and that is the little bit more than 60 stem cell lines are in the private sector right now, and I'm concerned whether those are enough. Secondly, some of those lines have not met NIH guidelines, some are them are contaminated, and I might add that some of them have not had an institutional review board review. And I think all of that has to be sorted out.
So, hopefully his presidential review board will help to resolve some of these problems, and push this in a way that is ethical, moral and scientifically upright.
KING: Christopher Reeve did mention that.
Senator Brownback, who has been a strong opponent of stem cell research from a federal funding standpoint, I guess from every standpoint, morally as well, what did you make of this?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, I was pleased that the president took all the time and the effort that he did, sought all the input that he did from really around the world. And that, also, he's really taken a deep look at this, and considered it in his own heart.
I'm pleased about the limitations that he's put on the research -- on the embryonic stem cell lines. I'm pleased about his strong support for a ban on human cloning, because really we shouldn't be going down the line of cloning human beings for research purposes, or for any purposes.
But one area that I'm concerned about, is that he's opening up this field of being able to say that, "OK, we're going to look at some of these, and the use of some embryonic stem cells for research, because it goes into the very fundamental of what is the unhuman. He talked about that. What is the unhuman? And he says it's a life.
If it's a life, we should treat it as such, and not as some sort of medical commodity to research on. And I'm concerned about that line of him using the taxpayer money to go down that area.
KING: Are you fearing, Senator Brownback, that one step might lead to two steps might lead to three steps?
BROWNBACK: Well, I'm concerned about the breaking of the barrier. If you say, "OK, we can take and we have some stem cells here that have been developed by destroyed embryos, then we have already created a process of some incentivization."
I was glad that he's limited that to a particular line, but I worry about that moral barrier saying that you can use these as property. They are people, and this is a fundamental question we have to wrestle with: Are these people or are they property? The president clearly said tonight they're people.
KING: Senator Hatch, do you have any concerns?
HATCH: Well, I agree the president said they're people, but he opted for the side of facilitating life, and making us -- you know, making a decision that comes down in favor of trying to resolve some of these difficulties.
I have tremendous respect for Sam Brownback and his principled positions in this matter. On the other hand, there are many, many people who are just were hoping and praying that the president wouldn't make this decision tonight.
What he did seem to say is that he does not want to spend federal funds to create these stem cell lines. I think there are many questions that have to be answered; his eight or 10-minute speech could not answer them all. But it was apparent that he put a lot of reflective due deliberation on this matter and I think has resolved this matter about as well as it can be resolved at this time, but we've got to solve some of these other problems as well.
KING: Senator Brownback, do you think he reneged on his campaign promise not to have federal funding in any of this?
BROWNBACK: Well, he said during the campaign that he would not use taxpayer dollars for destructive embryo research, and in that sense these embryos have been destroyed under previous efforts. I don't know really, you know, how you weigh that one back and forth.
I do appreciate his continued support for increasing adult stem cell work, because, as Orrin Hatch had mentioned -- and I have a great respect for Orrin -- we want to find cures, and where we're finding the cures right now is in the adult stem cell area. We want to keep pushing that.
KING: You both of you like the idea of a council, Senator Hatch? HATCH: Well, I like it, as long as it facilitates the improvement of human life, and facilitates the effective and scientific utilization of these cells for the benefit of humankind. But if it's going to become an organization that throws up roadblocks all the way, then I think it would be a mistake.
I'm sure the president will try to facilitate life, after making this decision. And I think he'll pick a very good presidential review board, which I think is a good idea.
KING: Do you think so, Senator Brownback?
BROWNBACK: I think the council was an excellent idea, and Dr. Kass is a very good man, and he's very thoughtful and well regarded on this topic.
I think it's the right idea. I hope it doesn't start taking us down the line of trying to legitimize each step at a time of destroying human embryos for our benefit or human cloning in the future.
KING: Thank you both very much, Senators Orrin Hatch and Sam Brownback.
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Larry.
KING: So far, everybody is thumbs up with some small reservations.
When we come back, our panel: Dr. Deepak Chopra, the best-selling author, is in Barcelona, Spain; Montel Williams, the TV talk show host, himself diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, is in New York; Father Michael Manning, the Roman Catholic priest host of "The Word and the World" is here in Los Angeles; and Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is in Louisville. And they are all next, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I thought through this issue I kept returning to two fundamental questions. First, are these frozen embryos human life and therefore something precious to be protected? And second, if they're going to be destroyed anyway, shouldn't they be used for a greater good, for research that has the potential to save and improve other lives?
I've asked those questions and others of scientists, scholars, bio-ethicists, religious leaders, doctors, researchers, members of Congress, my cabinet and my friends. I have read heartfelt letters from many Americans. I have given this issue a great deal of thought, prayer, and considerable reflection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Let's go around the horn. Dr. Deepak Chopra in Barcelona, Spain, a supporter of embryonic cell research, stem cell research, your reaction to the president's speech?
DR. DEEPAK CHOPRA, AUTHOR, "HOW TO KNOW GOD": I think, Larry, it's a very good start. I think what the president has done is opened the door. I think as a result of these 60 stem lines, we are going to see some major breakthroughs. And when you have some major breakthroughs -- let's say you have the cure for type I diabetes, for which we spend over $100 billion a year, there are 128 million people who stand to be affected positively.
And we are not just talking about, you know, the diseases that have been mentioned. We are talking about cancer, we are talking about AIDS, we are talking about immune deficiency diseases. If you see the 128 million people, that affects almost every family in the United States. And I think what the president has done is by giving us this council we are going to have a lot of information, and we are going to see that, you know, some of the fears that we have about this research is because we don't know all the facts.
Of all the stem cells that we use in research, they come from three sources: embryonic stem cells, embryonic germ cells and adult stem cells. Of these only the first category have the potential to become a full organism and that too, if successfully implanted, so you know when you say life -- there is life in these embryos...
KING: I am just trying to get your initial reaction, which is favorable.
CHOPRA: ... there is life...
KING: Favorable. Father Michael Manning so far, everybody is favorable and you are our first Catholic.
FATHER MICHAEL MANNING, HOST, "THE WORD IN THE WORLD": I want to say, yes, to research and stem cell. I'm very, very uncomfortable, though, even with the use of these 60 lines.
MANNING: Because I think they are human beings and I don't think we should be playing around with human beings.
KING: Even though they wouldn't be used...
MANNING: Precisely. I think they need to be buried and given the respect that they are due, as the life...
KING: You mean they should be buried as human beings?
MANNING: Correct, very much so.
KING: Who gave their life for whatever.
MANNING: Correct, and that doesn't mean though, that we stop the vital search to try to find an answer through stem-cell research.
KING: But not embryonic.
MANNING: But not embryonic. Let the life of the child be left and respected.
KING: Montel Williams who has supported stem-cell research, himself has MS. What did you make of this speech?
MONTEL WILLIAMS, TALK SHOW HOST: Larry, we all have to be happy with the fact that the president took the time to ask the advice of people all over the planet. And then he came to the decision that he is willing to open the door. He said it specifically, "this will begin the process."
Those 60 lines, though. I question. And I question like a lot of other people right here right now in America are questioning. Those 60 lines are owned by an individual company right now. We don't know if all 60 lines are viable. And just like Orrin Hatch said -- Senator Hatch said -- what if 10, 15 of those lines are not viable.
Does that mean that now the president will go back say, well, since we only have 45 now, we need to get another 15 to make it 60? It is time for us to understand that this may be the key to stopping the pain and suffering of people like myself, people with spinal cord injury, people with Parkinson's, people with Alzheimer's, name the disease.
If we are the compassionate nation we claim to be, we know already that there are about 100,000 embryos in frozen right now in America, and less than a thousand of them have even been attempted to be adopted. So when they destroy them, why not let me and other people go pick up the trash? I want to go in the garbage.
KING: Are you therefore thumbs-down on this?
WILLIAMS: I am -- I am thumbs middle. I'm hoping that the president will lead this as an open door with -- within next two to three years as we see the research develop cures for disease. I will go thumbs-up when they increase the number of stem cell lines that we work with.
KING: And Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville, your reaction.
DR. ALBERT MOHLER, SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Well, I am both relieved and concerned. I am relieved first of all that the American taxpayer will not be put in the direct position of funding the destruction of human embryos for medical research purposes. That would be unconscionable.
But I am concerned. I am concerned that the use of these 60 lines will lead to use of others, because, what will happen is that in the private sector, there will be companies that for a profit motive will develop new stem lines. And that means the destruction of additional embryos. And then there will be the inevitable push to continue to expand the use of federal funding to those lines, and the existing lines. Father Manning is exactly right. They are deserving of full human respect. I think the president did a very good job of laying out the issue. He gave us an excellent lesson tonight and was a wonderful teacher.
I appreciate so much the fact that he declared human embryos to be human life and deserving of all production. I fear that this partial compromise will lead to the unethical use of even further embryos and further destruction. We applaud stem-cell research, especially with adult cells, and placental and umbilical tissues. But it is fundamentally wrong to use human embryos for that purpose primarily or secondarily.
KING: All right, we've got opinion of the panel. What we are going to do is take a break, come back, spend a couple of moments with Karen Hughes, the counselor to the president who is there in Crawford, Texas and get her reaction to the reaction we are getting here tonight, and a little bit of how this all came about. And then return to our panel. We will be right back with Karen Hughes right after this. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Embryonic stem-cell research is at the leading edge of a series of moral hazards. Initial stem-cell researching was at first reluctant to begin as research, fearing it might be used for human cloning. Scientists have already cloned a sheep. Researchers are telling us the next step could be to clone human beings to create individual designer stem cells essentially to grow another you to be available in case you need another heart or lung or liver.
I strongly oppose human cloning as do most Americans. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts or creating life for our convenience.
KING: We want to spend a couple moments with Karen Hughes, counselor to the president who is with the president tonight in Crawford, Texas. Karen, are you surprised at the reaction that we are getting here on both sides of this is sort of a either, status quo or mostly an up?
KAREN HUGHES, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, Larry, I would certainly hope so. The president is a man of both strong convictions and a big heart. And throughout this whole process, the last several months when he has been thinking through the enormous ramifications of this decision, he has tried to listen to those who believed with such great hope that this stem cell research offers the hope of cures for terrible diseases, but also to maintain his strong moral conviction that we should not cross that moral line.
And he was able to come up with a solution that I think achieved both those goals, that both allows us to fully explore the great potential of science -- and we hope to be able to find cures for many of the terrible diseases that affect so many Americans -- but also does not cross that fundamental moral line that says that we will not use taxpayer funds to further sanction any destruction of human embryos.
KING: Was this kind of over the course of time? When was the final decision made to go ahead with this and to announce it tonight?
HUGHES: Well, actually, Larry, the first time the president told me directly, "Let's go forward," was yesterday afternoon here in Crawford. I came in yesterday afternoon and met with him.
He'd been thinking through this issue for a long period of time as he said tonight -- perhaps more than any other issue I've seen, and he really sought a lot of input from a lot of different people.
He would ask people at various meetings that weren't even about this subject, "What do you think about stem cell research? But not only what do you think, but why? What is your ethical justification? Why do you think that?" And he really probed this issue deeply and thought through it very carefully.
And I think you saw that in both his thoughtful solution and also the comments that he delivered here tonight. But he did not make a final decision. There was a critical meeting several weeks ago with a group of ethicists where I think the beginnings of a solution were first discussed with Dr. Leon Kass and one other ethicist. And I think he gradually became more and more comfortable with the decision and, finally yesterday afternoon, said that he was prepared to go forward tonight.
KING: And you knew what it would be then, right?
HUGHES: Yes, I did.
KING: When will the council be formed?
HUGHES: Well, Larry, I presume quickly. He announced tonight that Dr. Leon Kass will chair the council. We have not yet received -- I assume that a lot of people will have different ideas for who should serve on the council. We've already received some names. I'm sure Dr. Kass will also have some names and some recommendations. I'm sure many members of Congress may have some recommendations, so the council will be formed fairly quickly, and also, the National Institutes of Health will begin developing guidelines to help oversee this research.
KING: And one other thing, Karen, do you think a campaign promise was broken tonight or not?
HUGHES: Absolutely not, Larry, what the president did was exactly in keeping with what he said throughout the campaign. What he was able to do was find a solution that expands on what he said during the campaign but offers the hope of finding cures that offer great scientific potential yet does not cross that moral threshold, does not that core principle. Repeatedly, through the campaign, he said that he did not want to fund research that involved the destruction of human embryos. He has found a solution that does not allow further destruction of human embryos, and so this is absolutely in keeping with that. And I think's that -- he felt that that was a very important moral line that we should not cross.
He kept saying, "We don't want to create any incentives. We don't want to create a market." And in fact, we think this will probably discourage -- I heard the person you were interviewing last talk about he was concerned that this opens the door. We think this will actually discourage it, because scientists will have 60 lines on which to begin to experiment, to begin to explore.
People might not realize that all of the experimentation right now that is being done on my stem cells is being done on only five lines, so 60 lines is a large number. And we feel that it is very adequate. Scientists have told the president -- scientists from the national institutes of health have told the president that that's very adequate for a great deal of scientific progress.
KING: Karen, thank you as always.
HUGHES: Thank you, Larry, good to be with you.
KING: Karen Hughes, counselor to the president, saying this was the toughest decision she's seen him have to make.
We'll be back with our panel and our closing moments and more comments, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Research offers hope that millions of our loved ones may be cured of a disease and rid of their suffering. I have friends whose children suffer from juvenile diabetes. Nancy Reagan has written me about President Reagan's struggle with Alzheimer's. My own family has confronted the tragedy of childhood leukemia. And like all Americans, I have great hope for cures.
I also believe human life is a sacred gift from our creator. I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe as your president I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dr. Chopra, we are now in our waning moments, and we realize we have time limitations. We appreciate certainly your being with us. Are you therefore much more -- are you more encouraged than you thought you would be?
CHOPRA: I am. I'm very encouraged, because I think, you know, if you really pro-life, then we have a moral commitment to healing and to the alleviation of human suffering, and this is a step forward in that direction.
KING: Thank you very much. Father Manning.
MANNING: Oh, I'm all in favor of healing.
KING: Yeah, but you have also said that these 60 stems are to you, they're remnants of life.
MANNING: There is a life and it's sacred...
KING: Do you think the church will take that stand?
MANNING: I don't know. I'm just kind of coming out of my own experience, and just saying that I would not -- not have anything to do with that. We live in a world, and all of a sudden, we've got these -- what is it -- 10,000 embryos in freezers sit around, and it's like we are living in a world that somehow permits that, and says, well, since it's there, might as well do something with it.
And it's like, we are jumping around in all moral decisions beyond what we should be doing. I mean, we shouldn't even...
KING: What do you say to Montel? He has MS.
MANNING: Oh, let's fund research, let's work for it as best we can, through -- through placenta...
KING: But he would say there is a better way to do it.
MANNING: Oh, and I'm saying that there is a way that's going to be respecting life much more importantly.
KING: Montel, how would you respond?
WILLIAMS: You know, I have to say I have heard it over and over again tonight, that we are not going to fund federal destruction of embryos. But whether we fund it or not -- and to correct father, there are over 100,000 embryos in freezers right now, and some of those are going to be destroyed tonight, tomorrow, the next day and the next day...
WILLIAMS: ... let me just finish. They are going to be, whether we like it or not. And until you pass a law that says you can't destroy them -- if I die today, I have a right to donate any part of my body to anyone I want to. These embryos are being destroyed. As the parent of an embryo, I should be able to say, "I want to donate that stem cell to anyone I want to." And I should be allowed to do so, and if it's a research, let it happen.
That is called compassion. Whether we like it or not, this is going continue. It's going on all over the world, and we are not going to stop it.
KING: In other words -- in other words, Dr. Mohler, what's wrong with the passing of one life, be it an embryo, to save another?
MOHLER: Well, that utilitarian argument could be applied to any number of atrocities. Every one of the diseases mentioned tonight has afflicted my own family, and I hope and pray that stem cell research will lead to a cure in treatment for all those diseases.
The president was a statesman tonight. He set a policy and established a model of how to discuss this issue. But for Montel Williams to be able to discuss human embryos as trash, shows that we have a long way go to understanding what the sanctity of life really means.
WILLIAMS: I didn't say they were trash, I said they will be thrown in the trash. They will be, whether you like it or not. And I would say to you, sir, if they are thrown in the trash -- until you pass law to not do that, let me and someone else go dig in the trash and get that to someone that can benefit.
KING: Gentlemen, we are out of time. This has been a historic night, and it's just the beginning. We expect to have many more discussions on this, and we hope to include many of the discussions that will include the soon-to-be-formed council.
We invite you to stay tuned now for a special on stem cell the decision, coming to you from CNN. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Larry King. For all of our guests, good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com