by Steven Ertelt
August 18, 2006
Springfield, IL (LifeNews.com) — The state of Illinois awarded the first part of $5 million in embryonic stem cell research grants that Gov. Rod Blagojevich gave through an executive order that had state lawmakers and pro-life advocates crying foul. The order was the second time the governor bypassed objections from the state legislature to fund the unproven research.
Under the awards, the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield and Carbondale will get $1.1 million to build a new stem cell research institute.
SIU will also use the grant money to train medical students about stem cell research ethics and to create an outreach program to patients in southern Illinois.
According to the Springfield Journal Register newspaper, Dr. Stuart Adler, an associate professor of physiology at the Carbondale campus, will become the director of the institute.
Adler is a proponent of embryonic stem cell research that involves the destruction of human life and confirmed the institute will "undertake the most cutting-edge research in the area of human embryonic stem cells."
However, embryonic stem cells have yet to cure a single patient and have experienced rejection issues and developed tumors when tried on animals. Adult stem cells have resulted in the creation of dozens of therapies, some of which have been approved by the FDA.
The facility will be called the Southern Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute and will be based in Carbondale, where both adult and embryonic stem cell research will take place.
Research will also be done at the medical center in Springfield, Adler told the newspaper.
Adler said that 60 percent of Americans back embryonic stem cell research but polls show otherwise.
The most recent poll on the subject, conducted by International Communications Research in mid-May, finds 48% of Americans oppose federal funding of stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos. Just 39% support such funding and another 12 percent had no position.
The ICR survey found 57% favored funding only the research avenues that do not harm the donor. Just 24% favored funding all stem cell research, including the type that involves destroying human embryos.
Dr. Jasti Rao, a professor and head of the department of cancer biology and pharmacology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria was one of seven researchers to be awarded grant money.
He is using stem cells from umbilical cord blood to treat patients and received a $1.1 million state grant.
Both Republican and state lawmakers criticized Blagojevich, a Democrat, for circumventing the will of the state legislature, which has voted to oppose funding the research.
Democratic Rep. John Bradley of Marion chastised Blagojevich for leaving the legislature out of the debate and a spokesman for the Republican leader in the state Senate told WMAQ-TV that the governor is "showing his disdain for the people of Illinois."
Pro-life groups are also critical of the executive order.
The Illinois Federation for Right to Life said Blagojevich is forcing Illinois taxpayers to fund the destruction of innocent human life. It said pro-life advocates are "outraged at Governor Blagojevich’s new executive order that directs $5 million dollars of Illinois taxpayer money from the 2007 budget to fund" the unproven research.
The pro-life group added that "the use of taxpayer dollars should be determined by the legislative branch which represents the will of the people and not the will of one person."
Blagojevich said he issued the order because he’s upset the legislature has voted against funding the destructive research and that President Bush vetoed a Congressional bill that would have spent federal funds on it.