Illinois Bill Allowing Destructive Research Apparently Dead for Session

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Illinois Bill Allowing Destructive Research Apparently Dead for Session

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
May 15, 2004

Springfield, IL ( — A bill in the Illinois legislature allowing embryonic stem cell research may not come to a full vote in the Senate, after a critical amendment failed Wednesday.

The roll call vote for an amendment by HB 3589’s sponsor, Jeffrey Shoenberg (D-Evanston), which would have clarified that the bill banned human reproductive cloning while allowing cloning for destructive research was, surprised lobbyists on both sides of the debate by showing a lack of support for the measure.

Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), who has a mixed pro-life voting record asked for a roll call vote on adding the amendment to HB 3589. As roll call votes are not usually taken for an amendment to be attached, it was unexpected, as were the results, a 28-28-1 vote, when 30 were needed to pass.

Sen. Schoenberg said the amendment was crucial to his bill and that he would not seek a full vote on it without the amendment. He said he will bring it up again in the spring after he talks with his colleagues to gather more support.

The bill has drawn strong opposition from pro-life groups, who want a ban on all forms of human cloning — both for research as well as reproductive purposes.

Schoenberg’s bill had narrowly passed the state House in March 2003 by a 60-56 vote.

HB 3589 would permit the gathering of human embryos and fetal tissue from any source — including abortions, leftover embryos from fertilization treatments, and those created by "somatic nuclear transplantation," the procedure by which organisms, such as Dolly the sheep, are cloned.

The bill currently does not ban human cloning for reproductive purposes, although it explicitly allows for cloning for so-called "therapeutic" purposes.

"Human cloning and embryonic stem cell research have failed to produce any usable medical advances so far," said William Beckman, executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee. "Private investment capital has dried up for these fruitless pursuits.

"Why encourage more effort pursuing a dead end when a more promising alternative exists," asked Beckman, referring to adult stem cell sources, such as umbilical cord blood, which have already produced successful treatments.

In March, Harvard University researchers announced the creation of new embryonic stem cell lines, which, like their predecessors from the National Institute of Health, appear to be unusable.

However, adult stem cells have been scientifically proven to repair heart tissue, put leukemia into remission, cure sickle cell anemia, and limit the effects of other diseases.

"Destroying human life is never necessary to cure a disease or illness," says Tony Perkins president of the Family Research Council. "And our taxpayer dollars should never be used to destroy human embryos."

"Let researchers who want to continue pursuing this unethical dead end move to New Jersey or California," Beckman added. "The legislatures of those states were already duped into support of human cloning and embryonic stem cell research by special interests pushing the dubious benefits of so-called therapeutic cloning. Such research causes the death of human embryos to obtain their stem cells.

"Illinois can do much better than to follow the lead of New Jersey and California. To achieve prominent medical advances, research using adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells should be encouraged," concluded Beckman.

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.

Related web sites:
Illinois Right to Life –