by Steven Ertelt
May 12, 2006
Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — The Texas state House on Thursday avoided a debate and vote on the contentious issue of embryonic stem cell research when it considered a measure that would authorize a list of bonds for construction projects at Texas colleges and universities.
The House was prepared to cast a vote on whether to prohibit any money in the bill from building facilities for scientists conducting embryonic stem cell research. The measure includes $3.7 billion in taxpayer funds for the construction projects.
The vote became unnecessary after the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, which is conducting such research, withdrew its request for funds under the bill.
It had planned to build a a $41.1 million biomedical research and education facility but the Houston Chronicle reported they agreed to remove the "admittedly controversial facility," where embryonic stem cell research would be conducted, from the bill.
UT spokesman Michael Warden told the Chronicle that the university didn’t want to jeopardize other funding in the bill.
After that happened, Rep. Geanie Morrison, a Republican, said he would wait to have any vote on the issue of stem cell research. He supported an amendment to his bill, but said it could wait until an interim House committee studies the issue next year.
Morrison indicated that a proposed compromise on the UT-Houston facility fell through and so she pulled the funding at UT’s request to "protect the members" of the legislature from a long drawn-out debate on stem cell research.
"This is the best solution so that one project didn’t hamper all the other projects and the university system asked for it to be pulled down," said Morrison, told the Houston newspaper. "This is not the proper place to debate stem cell research."
Waren said UT still believes in building the embryonic stem cell research center but indicated "we’ll just have to look for alternative ways" to fund it.
Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Houston Democrat, said she was disappointed the UT center had to be pulled from the bill.
"My concern is that we are placating a small group of conservative people who think that they don’t believe in the science of stem cell research, who are more concerned about an embryo in a petri dish," she said, attacking pro-life advocates.
"We basically did a contortion act to accommodate the pro-lifers in Texas," she told the Chronicle.
The construction bond measure now heads to the state Senate.