by Steven Ertelt
March 11, 2005
Lincoln, NE (LifeNews.com) — Legislation that would address human cloning and stem cell research received a contentious hearing on Thursday in the unicameral legislature’s judiciary committee.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Adrian Smith (LB437) would ban all forms of human cloning — including the kind that would create human embryos only for their destruction.
"Human embryos are new human life," Smith said, according to an AP report. "To call cloned embryos something other than an embryo is not accurate or scientific."
Pro-life groups coalesced around that bill and opposed legislation put forward by Sen. Joel Johnson that would ban reproductive human cloning but allow it for research.
A third bill to be brought up during the hearing, proposed by Sen. Mike Foley of Lincoln, prohibits state money from being used to fund the destruction of human embryos and disallows state-funded facilities, like the University of Nebraska Medical Center, from being involved.
Annette Wurdeman of Columbus, has Parkinson’s, but she doesn’t want her money being used to fund human cloning or research destroying human life.
"UNMC looks at the human embryo as a glob of tissue," she said. "I look on the human embryo as having human dignity with something very precious — a soul."
Tom Rosenquist, vice chancellor for research at UNMC, testified in favor of Johnson’s bill, AP reported.
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.