by Steven Ertelt
February 16, 2005
Annapolis, MD (LifeNews.com) — Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich says he has some concerns about a measure in the state legislature that would spend $25 million annually on embryonic stem cell research.
Ehrlich attended a dinner with business executives on Monday and did not take an official position on the legislation but pointed to President Bush’s opposition to using federal taxpayer dollars to fund any new embryonic stem cell research because it destroys human life.
Governor Ehrlich, a Republican, said he is still "vetting" the stem cell bill, according to a Baltimore Gazette report, but believes "the federal government is the appropriate venue" for stem cell research funding.
"What we do at the state level … remains to be seen," he said. "We have some concerns about the present bill."
Ehrlich told reporters that the subject of stem cell research always devolves into a debate about "abortion politics."
"It’s unfortunate any time abortion politics break out; it tends to be divisive," he said.
Some biotech businesses representatives at the dinner expressed their disappointment with his remarks.
"A good portion of the stem cell policy gets implemented at the federal level — the governor’s right about that," said Edward Rudnic, chairman and CEO of Advancis Pharmaceuticals in Germantown. "But those federal policies are not directly related to the private sector, but it does put the chill on their ability to get funding."
Business Secretary Aris Melissaratos told the Gazette that most of the stem cell research in the state is conducted with adult stem cells, not embryonic.
Given that, he said, "I don’t think we need the controversy" of embryonic stem cells in Maryland.
Sen. Jennie Forehand, a Rockville Democrat and the sponsor of the stem cell research bill, said Governor Ehrlich’s reference to President Bush’s policies tells her that he will oppose the bill.
"I think he answered the question [about supporting the bill] when he said the president doesn’t want to do it," she told the Baltimore newspaper.
Pro-life groups in the state are hoping to stage a filibuster in the state Senate to stop the bill from making it through the legislature.
Maryland Right to Life opposes the bill because funds would go towards human cloning and embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of human life.
"A lot of confusion surrounds this bill, because some legislators who oppose cloning say they will support this bill," the group said in a statement. "They do not understand that stem cell research and cloning go hand in hand – embryos for embryonic stem cell research will be created through cloning techniques and then killed to harvest their stem cells."
Last year the pro-life group successfully fought a proposed law that would have legalized the cloning of human embryos for medical research in Maryland.