New Jersey Stem Cell Research Backers Hiding Real Bond Vote Costs

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 31, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Jersey Stem Cell Research Backers Hiding Real Bond Vote Costs Email this article
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by Marie Tasy
October 31, 2007 Note: Marie Tasy is the executive director of New Jersey Right to Life.


In the case of Public Question No. 2 on the ballot Tuesday, the $450 million stem cell research bond issue, legislative leaders have concealed important information from the voting public, regarding not only the monetary burdens that will be piled onto the backs of the overburdened taxpayers but the moral and legal ramifications of funding such research.

This is the reason that 15 citizens and New Jersey Right to Life filed a lawsuit to stop the referendum.

For example, the question and interpretive statement will not inform voters that revenues to pay back the bond debt will come from sales taxes and increases in property taxes. The Office of Legislative Services’ fiscal estimate stated that the $450 million in bonds would increase state debt by $37 million per year.

The OLS concluded, "given the uncertainty of stem cell research grants resulting in financial gain to a grantee that would then be shared with the state, no estimate of increased state revenue is feasible." It also noted that any such revenue is "restricted in use to additional stem cell research grants." This means that any supposed economic benefit that could occur from the research, such as patents or royalties, will not be used to pay down the bond debt, but instead be allocated for additional stem cell research grants.

Don’t expect to read any of this in the question or interpretive statement because it is not there.

The question and interpretive statement fail to mention the types of stem cell research that will be performed and the percentage of funds that will be allocated for each type. It does not disclose that the act permits experimenting on, and then destruction of, living human embryos left over from fertility clinics. It also does not inform voters that it will permit researchers to create a new class of human beings through cloning, one designated for the sole purpose of experimentation and destruction, and the potential this research has to exploit poor, minority and college-aged women who would be given financial incentives by cloning researchers to donate their eggs.

Legislators and proponents of the act insist that human cloning is not allowed, but they are being untruthful and deceptive. The language in the bond act does not prohibit transferring a cloned human embryo into a womb, but rather bans it at the stage the cloned human embryo becomes a fetus.

While the bond act does not define "human fetus," medical textbooks say that an embryo becomes a fetus at the end of the eighth week and remains a fetus until birth.

Under a 2003 state law cited in the bond act, researchers are authorized to derive human embryos from the somatic cell nuclear transplantation method, or SCNT, which is the same process used to clone Dolly the Sheep. So the act authorizes research to perfect the SCNT cloning technique to produce embryos, then fetuses.

Many legal experts have pointed out that this raises serious moral, legal and even constitutional issues. A law prohibiting the survival of cloned humans past a certain point — in effect, legally mandating an abortion before that point can be reached — may violate federal and state constitutional law.

A simple comparison of the definitions of human cloning contained in last year’s Proposition No. 2 in Missouri and federal bills sponsored by lawmakers who admittedly support embryo cloning include specific language to ban the implantation of a cloned human embryo "into the uterus of a woman or the functional equivalent of a uterus." Many also ban any experimentation on the human embryo after 14 days.

In contrast, the New Jersey proposal does not ban the implantation of a cloned human embryo but instead allows it "so as to produce a human fetus." From a biological standpoint, an embryo can’t become a fetus unless it is implanted. By all accounts, New Jersey’s law is extreme and will allow researchers to clone and kill human beings through the fetal stage with our tax dollars.

Despite all the hype surrounding embryonic stem cell research, it has not cured a single human being. After 25 years of research using embryonic stem cells in animal models, researchers have yet to develop a successful treatment in mice for any disease that could be used as a model to undertake the first steps for a clinical trial with human patients. Embryonic stem cells cause rejection by the patient’s immune system and the formation of dangerous cancerous tumors.

It is important to recognize that private investors have not invested in the research. Why then should the taxpayers bear the burden for something that even Wall Street and drug companies are not willing to invest in?

The truth is that Public Question No. 2 is not about cures. It’s a major stealth campaign to fool the voters so the party in power can reward their biotechology and research friends with our tax dollars. And they will stop at nothing to accomplish their goal, even if means shamelessly exploiting the sick and infirm with empty promises of miracle cures and conjuring up bogus studies that make unrealistic predictions about economic gain.

When vital information is withheld so as to skew voters in one direction, as in the case of Public Question No. 2, it corrupts the voting process and breaches the voter’s trust. New Jersey already has the highest property taxes in the nation and is the fourth most indebted state. Before voting on this question, every taxpayer should look at his or her property tax bill, calculate how much they paid in sales tax last year, and then ask whether they really want to pay more in taxes than they are already paying for this corporate welfare loan-to-clone scheme.