California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Will get November Vote

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Will get November Vote

by Maria Gallagher Satff Writer
June 8, 2004

Sacramento, CA ( — A Hollywood-backed effort to secure funding for risky embryonic stem cell research has made it onto the California ballot.

The Secretary of State’s office announced last week that the "California Stem Cell Research and Cures" initiative will go before voters in November.

The ballot measure would provide an average of $295 million each year over ten years through tax-free state bonds.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan is among the measure’s supporters, even though her husband, who served as both President and Governor of California, was considered a champion of the pro-life movement and would likely have opposed the measure.

A number of Hollywood heavy-hitters, including directors, producers, and actors, are also campaigning for passage of the ballot initiative. The powerful biotech industry and a number of wealthy venture capitalists are also supporting the measure.

The effort is also backed by organizations that lobby for research money for a range of diseases, even though embryonic stem cell research has shown little promise and adult stem cell research, which does not involve the destruction of live human embryos, has been far more promising.

Among the organizations supporting the proposal are: the California Medical Association, American Nurses Association of California, American Diabetes Association, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, ALS Therapy Development Foundation, Parkinson’s Action Network, and the National Coalition for Cancer Research.

"More than 128 million Americans, including millions of Californians, suffer from diseases or injuries that may one day be cured by stem cell research," said Peter Van Etten, President and CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

"These devastating medical conditions affect a child or an adult in nearly one-half of all families. The California Stem Cell Initiative provides a beacon of hope for millions of California families who grapple each and every day with some of the most degenerative and debilitating diseases," Van Etten added.

However, initial trials involving fetal stem cells have proven disastrous. The results have been so devastating, in fact, that some scientists are calling for a halt to all embryonic stem cell research.

Meanwhile, supporters of embryonic stem cell research are even claiming that it could provide a boost to the California economy, which has been on shaky ground in recent years.

"This measure not only offers the vast potential to cure diseases and reduce human suffering, it is also designed to ensure the financial well-being of the state of California and to boost our state’s economy," said California State Controller Steve Westly.

"It also has potential to reduce California’s long-term healthcare costs by millions of dollars, and to generate new state revenues from patents and royalties that will benefit our state budget for decades to come," Westly added.

However, opponents of embryonic stem cell research say that such research is unlikely to yield significant economic results — and could in fact produce a drain on the state’s resources.

The proposal’s critics point out that there’s a good chance the research could lead to tragic–and costly–mistakes.

A number of religious groups, led by the Catholic Church, are expected to launch a counter-campaign to defeat the measure. Opponents of the plan say it reduces human beings to commodities that can be used for scientific research, then discarded.

Related web sites:
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