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Okla. fails to ban embryonic research

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry has succeeded in having his veto of a prohibition on stem cell research that destroys embryos upheld by the state Senate.

The Senate voted 26-19 April 23 to override Henry’s veto, six votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override. The failure in the Senate to overturn the veto followed the House of Representatives’ successful effort. The House voted 68-26 for the override.

Supporters of the ban lost votes in both houses between its original passage and the override effort. Earlier in the legislative session, the Senate voted 38-9 for the bill, while the House approved it with an 82-6 roll call. Henry vetoed it April 22.

A Democrat, Henry denied it was a pro-life issue, as portrayed by the ban’s supporters, and said misleading information was behind support for the legislation.

“There are all kinds of misconceptions and misinformation about this issue, and that’s regrettable,” Henry said in announcing his veto. “It’s important to point out that this legislation does nothing to stop an abortion or save a single life, but it does threaten life-saving research and unjustly criminalizes scientists who perform important work…. It would be morally repugnant to me to sign legislation outlawing scientific research that saves lives.”

Embryonic stem cell research, however, is destructive for the days-old embryo and kills the tiny human being. In addition, embryonic stem cell research has yet to produce any treatments in human beings.

Americans United for Life, a Chicago-based pro-life legal organization, said the misinformation on the bill came from its opponents.

“This important legislation was the victim of a disinformation campaign designed to scare the public and prevent them from understanding its true purpose: saving human lives,” said Daniel McConchie, AUL’s vice president of government affairs. “We look forward to educating the people of Oklahoma about why this legislation is vital to the state.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Todd Lamb of Edmond, said, according to The Oklahoman, “This is about life, and it’s about public policy and the sanctity of life being protected in public policy.”

Many scientists have promoted embryonic stem cell research, because stem cells from embryos are pluripotent, meaning they can transform into any cell or tissue in the body. But research using embryos not only has failed to provide any therapies for human subjects, it also has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals.

In contrast, stem cells from non-embryonic, or adult, sources have produced therapies for at least 73 ailments in human beings, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. Such results have been achieved even though non-embryonic stem cells are considered multipotent, meaning they can convert into many but not all cells or tissues in the body.

Meanwhile, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which are reprogrammed adult skin cells that have the properties of embryonic stem cells and do not involve embryos, have shown great promise in the last 18 months. In late March, medical doctor Mehmet Oz — better known as Dr. Oz — told Oprah Winfrey and her television audience the stem cell debate is “dead” because iPS stem cells show greater promise and because embryonic stem cells are difficult to control and “can become cancer.” Additionally, former Vice-President Al Gore in mid-April 14 announced his involvement in a venture reportedly worth $20 million that will boost research in iPS stem cells.

Henry is a member of a Southern Baptist congregation, First Baptist Church in Shawnee, Okla.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. For a Q&A about stem cell research click here .

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