Maryland Bill Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advances in State House

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Maryland Bill Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advances in State House Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 2, 2006

Annapolis, MD (LifeNews.com) — A measure to spend taxpayer dollars on embryonic stem cell research in Maryland has advanced to the state House and probably has enough votes there to be approved. Pro-life lawmakers tried to amend the bill to make it more palatable but their efforts failed.

A similar measure is expected to be before the state Senate, likely next week, and pro-life lawmakers there plan to renew a filibuster that stopped the legislation last year.

The two bills do have some differences. The Senate version leaves it up to the governor to determine how much in public funds to spend on the controversial research, while the House bill includes $25 million in annual funding.

House lawmakers tried to amend the bill to remove a provision saying embryonic stem cell research should be given priority over adult stem cells, even though it has never helped a patient. Adult stem cell research has yielded treatments for dozens of diseases and conditions.

House Minority Whip Anthony O’Donnell, a Republican, told delegates it would be a mistake to give a preference "to research that has not helped out anyone as yet."

Money spent on adult stem cells "will offer the best hope for our citizens seeking cures for incurable diseases," he said, according to an AP report.

But Delegate Peter Hammen, a Democrat, said the bill backs embryonic stem cell research first because President Bush has limited the use of taxpayer dollars for it.

Lawmakers rejected O’Donnell’s amendment on a 83-53 vote.

The House also defeated pro-life amendment to remove the funding from the bill, and to prohibit using state money for research on human embryos.

Lawmakers who back the Senate bill may change the wording of their legislation in order to get more support in the state Senate and from Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

Discussion has been underway for more than a week to change the language of the bill, which currently would fund only embryonic stem cell research, to contain neutral language that would allow funding for both embryonic and adult stem cells.

Senate Democrats who support the measure are looking to drop the words "embryo" and "embryonic" from the bill altogether in a move they hope will gain support.

Senate Minority Leader Lowell Stoltzfus told the Sun he still has the votes needed to prevent a vote on the embryonic stem cell research bill.

"The landscape hasn’t changed a lot as far as I can see," he said.

A representative of Governor Ehrlich said he is pursuing a proposal he’s already put forward and would be unlikely to support a revised bill.

Ehrlich has proposed $13.5 million in spending for a new medical research center in Baltimore and another $20 million for stem cell research projects. His plan calls for a technology development group governed by the state to determine what kind of research the $20 million will fund.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your state Representative and Senator and urge strong opposition to embryonic stem cell research. You can find contact info at – https://mlis.state.md.us.