Maryland Senators Spar Over Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill Changes

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 3, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Maryland Senators Spar Over Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill Changes

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 3, 2006

Annapolis, MD ( — The debate in the Maryland state Senate over a bill to support embryonic stem cell research isn’t supposed to begin until next week. But lawmakers were already battling it out because pro-life senators are upset that the text of the bill reported to the full Senate is different from what passed out of the committee.

House Minority Whip Andrew Harris complained that the measure had been changed from what the Education, Health and Environmental Matters Committee.

Pro-life senators of both parties plan to filibuster the bill and the changes may make them more determined to do so.

When Harris complained, Senate President Thomas Miller said he should take up his concerns with Sen. Paula Hollinger, the committee chairwoman, according to an AP report.

Harris said he was "astounded" by what happened and called the changes a violation of Senate rules.

Hollinger said there was just a one-word change to the bill, but Harris said there were other changes he saw that backers made in an attempt to make it easier to pass the bill.

Miller said he doesn’t think he has enough votes to overcome the filibuster.

Meanwhile, the state House on Friday gave final approval to its version of the measure. Unlike the Senate bill, the House legislation requires $25 million in taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research and puts it on a greater level of importance than adult stem cells.

Unlike adult stem cells, which have produced dozens of cures and treatments, embryonic stem cell research has yet to help a single patient and doesn’t appear likely to do so soon.

Because of that, House Minority Whip Anthony O’Donnell said lawmakers were giving patients "false hope" which is "the cruelest type of a hoax a government can play on its people."

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

Lawmakers rejected O’Donnell’s amendment to shift the funding to adult stem cells 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.

The House approved its measure on a 85-54 vote margin.

A representative of Governor Ehrlich previously said he is pursuing a proposal he’s already put forward and would be unlikely to support either 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 –