Massachusetts Bill Would Fund Destructive Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 29, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Massachusetts Bill Would Fund Destructive Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
March 29, 2004

Boston, MA ( — Legislation supporting destructive embryonic stem cell research has advanced in the Massachusetts state Senate.

Senate bill 515 has been approved by the Senate Committee on Health Care, and now moves on to the Senate Science and Technology Committee.

The legislation, proposed by pro-abortion Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), would create a Stem Cell Research Trust Fund, which would provide grants to both for profit and not for profit research organizations participating in embryonic stem cell research.

While it does ban reproductive human cloning, it does allow for the creation of embryos using “somatic cell nuclear transplantation,” or cloning for research purposes. It forbids the sale of human embryos, fetal tissue, or eggs, but does permit reimbursement for “removal, processing, disposal, preservation, quality control, storage, transplantation, or implantation of such biological material.”

Violation of the limited ban would carry up to a five-year prison sentence and a $1000 fine.

“It is not the role of the legislature to fund or set up a Stem Cell Research Trust Fund using taxpayer dollars," Marie Sturgis, Executive Director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life told “This is a deceptive measure because it goes under the radar of the public and escapes real scientific scrutiny. This bill calls attention to the fact that we must enact on the national level, a full ban on human cloning and embryonic stem cell research."

“It will be difficult to enforce the penalties regarding the section that addresses the prohibition on human reproductive cloning,” added Sturgis. “Are fellow scientists going to report on other scientists, are companies going to expose themselves and risk the loss of a huge profit? This bill is unrealistic because the industry and academia is called to monitor itself. In the end human life is expended at the cost of profit or ‘scientific knowledge.’”

In November the Massachusetts Senate tried to add a provision to an economic stimulus bill that would allow and fund destructive human stem cell research. While the Senate approved the bill 37-3, including votes of support from pro-life senators, the provision was removed during the creation of a compromise bill with the House.

Earlier this month, Harvard University researchers announced that they had created 17 new embryonic stem cell lines, although it appears they may be as unusable for treating disorders as the National Institute of Health lines created previously.

But, Dr. Douglas Melton and his fellow researchers, in a scientific paper accompanying the announcement, "admit that their cell lines accumulate chromosomal abnormalities in culture, and that the abnormal cells grow much faster than the normal ones – the implication being that these new cell lines may soon be completely taken over by abnormal, potentially cancerous cells."

"[T]he new cell lines are as useless for therapies as the old ones," Doerflinger says.

In 2002, California became the first state in the nation to legalize therapeutic cloning.

Currently New Jersey has the most extreme pro-cloning legislation in effect, allowing for the cloning, implantation, and destruction of human life from the embryonic through the newborn stages of prenatal development. Massachusetts joins Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Washington in trying to pass their own legislation promoting the still futile and destructive human research.

Other states, however, have taken a different course, banning both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, and North Dakota have all given the boot to the biotech industry with legislative bans.