Stem-Cell Research Remains Divisive; California to Vote on Funding

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

Stem-Cell Research Remains Divisive; California to Vote on Funding


Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Stem-cell research continues to be a fiercely debated topic, and a contentious California ballot initiative designed to skirt President Bush's embryonic stem-cell policy is adding fuel to the fire this election year.

The ballot initiative - which would provide $3 billion in state funds for both adult and embryonic stem-cell research - was the focus of intense debate during a panel discussion sponsored by Scientific American magazine Wednesday morning on how best to move forward nationally on stem-cell research. It came up again in a Senate stem-cell hearing later that day.

California state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, Sacramento Democrat, who sat on the morning panel and is pushing the initiative, repeatedly stressed that it would fund all types of stem-cell research - not just embryonic.

But Dr. William B. Hurlbut, biology professor at Stanford University and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, said Ms. Ortiz and other proponents are avoiding the main purpose of the initiative, which is to fund creation of human embryos to be destroyed in research, and to essentially sidestep President Bush's 2001 policy. He granted federal funding to embryonic stem-cell research for the first time, but limited it to a group of stem-cell lines already created.

"It is disingenuous to obfuscate" the purpose, he told her, adding that the California initiative would encourage the creation of cloned human embryos for research. "I think you don't want to admit this is therapeutic cloning that will be used in California."

Later in the day, at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on stem-cell research, Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, said pressure is building for Mr. Bush to revisit his stem-cell policy, because many new embryonic stem-cell lines have been created since 2001, but don't qualify for federal funding. …

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