by Steven Ertelt
January 20, 2005
Lincoln, NE (LifeNews.com) — A Nebraska lawmaker has proposed legislation that increases the intensity of the debate surrounding human cloning and stem cell research at the state legislature.
While pro-life advocates back legislation by Senator Adrian Smith to prohibit all forms of human cloning, Sen. Joel Johnson of Kearney, a doctor, filed LB 580 on Tuesday that would prohibit reproductive human cloning but allow cloning efforts to produce human embryos for research.
Johnson is worried that, if Smith’s bill is approved, researchers at the University of Nebraska would be tempted to leave the state.
" There are too many people that have worked too many years to establish a world-class research program at UNMC," he told the Associated Press. "If we have legislation that basically tells scientists, ‘You are not welcome here,’ then all of this work will be threatened."
However, Senator Smith told AP that he doesn’t agree with Johnson’s argument. He points to plethora of research conducted with more ethical adult stem cells that has already resulted in dozens of treatments for diseases and ailments.
"It’s an effort to protect unethical research," Smith said of Johnson’s bill. "I don’t think academic freedom is intended, nor should it be, an anything-goes policy."
Johnson said his measure is based on similar Congressional legislation. In the nation’s capitol, lawmakers are fighting the same battle on whether to ban all or some human cloning.
Lawmakers have previously battled over a project by a University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher using embryonic stem cells.
Speaker of the Legislature Curt Bromm gave his backing to the project last summer after Governor Mike Johanns (R) voiced opposition.
Dr. Stephen Rennard of UNMC is seeking a $100,000 grant for a study on emphysema. In his past studies, primarily involving chronic lung diseases, Rennard has used adult stem cells to study lung restoration in rodents. However, he hopes to use embryonic stem cells in the future.
Pro-life groups also disapprove of the research as it requires the destruction of human embryos to harvest cells, a procedure that has yet to show any signs of medical benefit.
"While the use of past embryonic stem cell lines remains troubling to many pro-lifers, we are thankful that President Bush drew a line in the sand in 2001 and that he is remaining firm to this day on his position," Julie Schmit-Albin, Executive Director of Nebraska Right to Life told LifeNews.com.
"What we would like to know now from UNMC is if they intend to stay within the President’s guidelines or if they are among those who have called on the President to approve the use of frozen embryos created from in vitro fertilization," Schmit-Albin said at the time.