U. Minnesota Will do Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Pro-Life Bill Denies Funds
by Steven Ertelt
February 12, 2004
Minneapolis, MN (LifeNews.com) — The University of Minnesota has announced that it will begin research involving the destruction of human embryos, but pro-life legislators say the college will not be able to obtain state tax dollars if it does.
The university said earlier this week that it plans to begin engaging in the destructive research, but will use private funding to do it. The research will be conducted in campus labs with funds from nonprofit groups and biotech firms.
But that doesn’t make it any more palatable for pro-life lawmakers.
Dozens of pro-life members of the Minnesota state legislature say they are ready to stand behind legislation ensuring that the University of Minnesota has its state funding revoked as a consequence.
Rep. Tim Wilkin (R-Eagan) has sponsored legislation that would prohibit tax dollars from going to any college or university that engages in embryonic stem cell research.
"It’s clearly written to get their attention, and to make them make a decision that they’re not going to pursue this, and that maybe they should consult the Legislature before they pursue something like this," Wilkin told Minnesota Public Radio.
Some 28 legislators have already signed on to Wilkin’s bill as co-sponsors and he says he expects more to join him.
"We write some pretty big checks to the university, and we can tie whether those checks get written to certain policies," Wilkin said.
University of Minnesota Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Frank Cerra claims the decision wasn’t made in haste and that hundreds of people were consulted over a two year process of evaluating the potential for such research.
"As long as that research is legal, which this is, is regulated, which this is, has the necessary approvals, which if we ever do this kind of research, they will have, and it’s an area of faculty interest, and the institution has the equipment and space to support it, we do the research. That’s the way it’s always been, and then we’re publicly accountable for the research we do," Cerra told MPR.
Pro-life groups are disappointed that the university felt the need to supplement its groundbreaking program on adult stem cells with research that includes taking human lives.
"We’re deeply concerned that the University of Minnesota has decided to go around the will of the people through their elected officials and embark on this research," Scott Fischbach, director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, told LifeNews.com.
"Each embryo that is destroyed is a life that is lost forever, an irreplaceable human being who never was even allowed to grow, develop or become," Fischbach added. "We know that important medical advances are being made from research on adult stem cells — not embryonic stem cells."
However, Cerra says university scientists want to compare the results of adult stem cells with embryonic stem cells. Previous studies at other research facilities show adult stem cells have been tremendously successful while embryonic stem cells have yet to cure a patient and caused convulsions in many patients that had injections of the cells.
Representative Wilkin says destroying human life is objectionable no matter how laudable the research goals.
Cerra says the embryos will be donated by women who became pregnant through in-vitro fertilization and have "leftover" embryos as a result.
The University of Wisconsin was the first major university to use private funding for embryonic stem cell research. Now the list includes Harvard University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.