President Bush, already under fire from some Democrats and scientists for suppressing or ignoring scientific data that differs with his political positions, on Friday dismissed two members of the President's Council on Bioethics who are advocates of research on human embryo cells, The Washington Post reports. Bush is opposed to stem cell research, and replaced the pro-research council members with three new members who also oppose the practice. The council was created to advise the president on "bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology," according to the council's charter. Bush dismissed Elizabeth Blackburn, a cell biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and William May, a retired professor from Southern Methodist University. They were replaced by Benjamin Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, Peter Lawler of Berry College in Georgia, and Diana Schaub, a political science professor at Loyola College in Maryland. Carson also is a motivational speaker who often invokes religion and the Bible; Lawler publicly calls for making abortions illegal; and Schaub has said research on embryonic cells is "the evil of the willful destruction of innocent human life."
Bush spokeswoman Suzy DeFrancis says the changes weren't made to silence pro-embryonic cell research supporters on the council but to include "other people with other expertise and experience." But Blackburn says she was dismissed because her political views don't mesh with those of Bush and council director Leon Kass, a University of Chicago ethicist. "I think this is Bush stacking the council with the compliant," she told the Post. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry also criticized Bush's decision, saying the president is "playing politics" with the issue of stem cell research and that he is "stacking [the council] to better fit his right-wing ideological and religious views," the Boston Herald reports.