Illinois Cmte Backs Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Blocks Public Input

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 21, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Illinois Cmte Backs Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Blocks Public Input Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 21, 2005

Springfield, IL ( — An Illinois state House committee approved a proposal to use taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research but only after blocking opponents from giving any testimony against the measure. The bill would establish the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute and use state money to fund it.

The House Executive Committee signed off on the measure 10-3 and those opposed to it were incensed that Rep. Dan Burke, a Chicago Democrat, called for a vote on it before opponents had a chance to comment.

Opponents of the bill, including Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, were only able to speak on it after Burke called for a vote. Gilligan said such a move is a violation of long-standing protocol of letting those for and against a bill speak before a vote is taken.

Rep. Joseph Lyons, another Chicago Democrat, voted against the measure and said he couldn’t support using tax funds to promote embryonic stem cell research, which destroys human life to obtain stem cells.

Lyons told the Catholic Explorer newspaper that Rep. Burke substituted several lawmakers who backed the measure for absent legislators who opposed it.

"This committee was substituted and set up that no testimony was going to change their minds. The procedural plan was let’s take a vote at the discretion of the chair," he said.

"I think people knew exactly where they were going to be when they walked in this room," Lyons added.

By voting before opponents could speak, the committee ignored the input of Gilligan, the Illinois Medical Society and Ralph Rivera, of the pro-life group Illinois Citizens for Life.

"I think it’s really disappointing that they can make a motion to approve a bill before testimony is heard in opposition to it," Gilligan told the Explorer. "I’ve never seen anything like it before."

Gilligan said he would have presented a letter, signed by the six bishops of Illinois that read, "We recognize human suffering. The call to be compassionate, however, does not justify using public funds for embryonic stem cell research."

Rivera said the grants and loans made by the new institute to scientists and researchers would cover both embryonic and adult stem cell research. However, he said he’s concerned leaders of it would almost exclusively favor funding embryonic stem cells.

Rep. Tom Cross, a Republican, is the sponsor of the measure, HB 2249 and embryonic stem cell research advocates are trying to amend it to call for a state referendum in 2006 to spend $1 billion in bonds over 10 years on the institute.

ACTION: Contact Rep Dan Burke at (217) 782-1117 or send him a fax at (217) 782-0927.