Last week the House of the Oklahoma State legislature overwhelmingly passed the Protection of Human Life Act of 2013. This act prohibits the destruction of human embryos for research and prohibits research on cells that were obtained from the destruction of a human embryo.
No person shall:
1. Knowingly conduct nontherapeutic research that destroys a human embryo or subjects a human embryo to substantial risk of injury or death;
2. Transfer a human embryo with the knowledge that the embryo will be subjected to nontherapeutic research; or
3. Use for research purposes cells or tissues that the person knows were obtained by performing activities in violation of this section.
“Nontherapeutic research” is defined as “research that is not intended to help preserve the life and health of the particular embryo subjected to risk.” IVF procedures are explicitly excluded from this bill. Violations of the Protection of Human Life Act would be a felony with a prison sentence of at least 1 year and $100,000 fine.
The House voted 72-14 in favor of HB2070 and it is now headed to the Oklahoma State Senate for a vote.
SFGate has some reactions on the vote:
“For me, and I believe for the majority of Oklahomans, the real question is about life,” said Rep. Dan Fisher, R-El Reno, a minister who wrote the bill. “When does life begin? I believe it begins at conception. And anything that is done to knowingly end that life is the ending of human life, and we generally call that murder.”
But opponents say it sends a message that Oklahoma is not open to taking part in groundbreaking research.
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“Not only are we sending a message that we don’t want stem cell research, but that if you even try to do stem cell research in this state, you’re going to be a felon,” said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, one of two physicians in the Legislature. “That’s not the message that I want the scientific community in the world to receive about the state of Oklahoma.”
Dr. Cox is guilty of sensationalism by suggesting that performing any stem cell research in Oklahoma would make a scientist a felon. Researchers would be free to engage in all kinds of stem cell research, from adult stem cell research to induced pluripotent stem cell research. It would only be research that destroys human life that would be covered by HB2070.
Hopefully the Protection of Human Life Act of 2013 will overwhelmingly pass the Senate as well and become law in Oklahoma. With a lack of protection for human life at the federal level, it is up to the states to stand up for human embryos and protect them from destruction. Other states need to follow Oklahoma’s lead.