Delaware Legislator Withdraws Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill

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

Delaware Legislator Withdraws Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 29, 2004

Dover, DE ( — Delaware citizens have received a reprieve from a legislative push for human cloning. Sen. Robert L. Venables, Sr. (D-Laurel) is withdrawing a bill that would have promoted human cloning for what many ethicists see as "pseudo-scientific" research.

Venables said he’s dropping the measure because of election-year concerns voiced by staff, biotech backers and members of the House.

"I think the science is on our side," Venables told the Delaware press. "But I don’t think we could have gotten it through this year."

However, a number of ethicists note that science is not on the side of cloning research, in which human embryos are created for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells, then killing them.

While the Venables measure would have banned human cloning for reproduction, it would have paved the way for "clone and kill" research.

The Rev. John Grimm, an adviser to the Catholic Church on scientific issues, said the delay in considering the bill will allow researchers more time to make the case for adult stem cell research, which does not involve the taking of human lives.

"We think using adult stem cells instead of cloning embryonic cells will be the next big thing," Grimm told the News Journal newspaper. "We have trepidation when we say ‘no’ to science, but in this case we do so because we think it is immoral and that there is a moral alternative available," Grimm added.

While the biotech industry strongly defends the bill, the legislation has been denounced by religious institutions such as the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. Critics of the bill say it is morally wrong to create a human life for the purpose of harvesting the child’s parts and then killing the child.

They note that a number of scientists say that stem cells from living organs or from umbilical cord blood can be more effective in medical research.

"This is a momentary victory, a short-term win, and we expect this will be back," Christopher DiPietro of the Diocese of Wilmington told the News Journal.

"It only becomes a final victory when it’s voted down once and for all," DiPietro added.

President George W. Bush has banned the use of federal money to create new stem cells from embryonic cloning. Pro-life groups are pushing for an outright federal ban on all forms of human cloning.

A number of states have passed cloning laws. Additional bills are pending in more than two dozen states.

Cloning and embryonic stem cell research have become trendy issues among some state lawmakers, who claim that such research holds the key to both cures and jobs.

However, critics of such research note that such research has been largely unsuccessful, and that states don’t need jobs requiring unethical scientific research.

Even some state officials say Delaware doesn’t need a cloning law in order to attract jobs.

The head of the Delaware Economic Development office, Judy McKinney-Cherry, has said in media reports that the death of the cloning bill should have no immediate effects on state biotech efforts.

"We’ve been focusing most of our efforts on plant and animal research, not human research," she told the News Journal. "This bill shouldn’t hurt that and may increase our focus on plant and animal research."

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