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Some states buck emb. stem cell trend

Editor’s note: For a Q&A about stem cell research click here .

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–President Obama may have opened the floodgates for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but a handful of state legislatures are trying to carve a different path in what some are calling the latest front in the nation’s culture wars.

In the days since Obama made his March 9 announcement, legislatures in Oklahoma, Georgia and Mississippi have taken steps toward restricting or prohibiting embryonic stem cell research. Additionally, Oklahoma’s legislature passed a bill that could provide more than $1 million to adult stem cell research — which does not involve embryos — and a Texas Senate committee considered a bill that would establish an adult stem cell research consortium to help coordinate ethical forms of stem cell research in the state.

The states stand in stark contrast to more liberal states such as California, which began publicly funding embryonic stem cell research even before Obama issued his executive order. Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of embryos.

“This is an issue that defines whether or not an embryo is a human being and whether or not it has any protection under our laws,” Daniel Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life, told Baptist Press. “Even if you take out the religious element completely, it’s problematic to treat a human embryo any way you want to.”

Among the bills being considered:

— In Oklahoma, a bill (H.B. 1326) that would ban private and public embryonic stem cell research passed the House by a vote of 82-6 March 12. The Oklahoma House also passed a bill (H.J.R. 1035), 99-0, that would ask voters whether they want to take 10 percent of the interest money from the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund and apply it to adult stem cell research. That percentage would amount to about $1.5 million this year, according to the Oklahoman newspaper.

— In Georgia, a bill (S.B. 169) that would ban reproductive and therapeutic cloning passed the Senate, 34-22, March 12.

— In Mississippi, a House committee amended a spending bill (S.B. 3219) so that it prohibits the University of Mississippi from using state dollars on “research that kills or destroys an existing human embryo.”

— In Texas, a Senate committee heard testimony March 12 on a bill (S.B. 73) that would create the Adult Stem Cell Research Consortium, which would receive both public and private money and “allow universities and cord blood banks working on adult stem cell research to coordinate,” according a bill analysis. Bill supporters say the consortium would lead to more adult stem advances.

David Dunn, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, said his organization supports directing part of the tobacco settlement money toward adult stem cell research.

“According to the medical research that’s where all the promise is,” he said. “That’s where they’ve found success.”

Dunn, though, said his organization has more than just practical reasons for opposing embryonic stem cell research.

“Even if it was proved to be advantageous we’d still be against it, because we don’t believe that human beings ought to be used as a commodity for medical purposes,” he said. “It’s unethical.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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