Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stem Cell Research: No Cloning on the Taxpayer's Dime

Yesterday, Governor Dave Heineman signed a law passed by the Nebraska Legislature that will prevent state facilities from making human clones and destroying human embryos for stem cell research. Given the power and money of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its grassroots affiliate, Nebraskans for Research, and their advocacy of cloning and embryo-destructive research, this is extraordinary.

Crucial to the process was the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research, which I serve as executive director. NCER loves stem cell research, but doesn't want embryos destroyed to do it.

The new law bans human cloning and destruction of human embryos for research in the public sector. UNMC can continue doing research with certain embryonic stem cells subject to restrictions by the University of Nebraska Regents and federal guidelines. The bill also directs funding to UNMC and Creighton University for non-embryonic stem cell research.

Meanwhile, UNMC can build on its nationally recognized success in adult stem cell research. It could pursue research on turning regular body cells into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells. It could benefit from proposed legislation promoting the banking of umbilical cord blood for adult stem cells.

Some political observers were surprised that a compromise was reached on such a volatile issue. I think NCER added a dynamic that helped negotiations succeed.

Several organizations were crucial to the process, including the Nebraska Catholic Conference, Nebraska Right to Life, Nebraskans United for Life, Nebraska Family Council, and Family First. But NCER played a unique role. State Senator Steve Lathrop, chief architect of the compromise legislation, was among those who said NCER’s expertise and moderating effect on the negotiations helped make the compromise happen.

Congratulations to everyone affiliated with NCER, but especially to those who have persevered since the beginning when NCER was still finding its stride and voice. You have brought NCER through to it’s finest hour — so far.

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