South Dakota Legislature May Vote on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Ban

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 11, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Legislature May Vote on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Ban

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 11
, 2010

Pierre, SD ( — The South Dakota state legislature may vote again this year on legislation that would overturn the state’s ban on taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research. While adults tem cells have already helped patients facing more than 100 diseases and conditions, embryonic stem cells have never been as successful.

Last year, former state Treasurer David Volk of Sioux Falls created a new group called South Dakotans for Lifesaving Cures to get a measure on the state ballot.

Volk hoped to obtain 6,776 valid signatures by April 6 to get a measure overturning the ban on embryonic stem cell research funding on the state ballot. Now, he says he plans another legislative attempt to overturn the ban.

"Ballot measures can cost more than $1 million in some cases," the group’s spokesman Nathan Peterson told the Argus Leader newspaper.

If past failure is any indication of future votes, the organization will have an uphill battle in its attempt to force the state to pay for research that involves the destruction of human life.

The state Senate voted 20-14 last year against legislation to repeal the ban.

"I think this time we can win," Volk told the newspaper. "I can see it winning the Senate. I think the House is a horse of a different color. I don’t think anybody knows."

Chris Hupke, president of the South Dakota Family Policy Council, told the newspaper that pro-life groups would work overtime to defeat the bill.

"It’s a great political stunt. They realize this thing is dead. They want it to go down, so they can blame it on the Legislature," he said.

And Republican Dave Knudson, the Senate majority leader, said he doubted the bill would get approval.

"Practically, I don’t think our research community at this point has felt the need to change this law," said Knudson.

Republican Tim Rave, speaker of the House, told the Leader he worries the bill is the first step that will lead to human cloning.

"I’m more concerned where that road eventually leads," he said. "I’m adamantly opposed to cloning. I know they have said it won’t lead to that, but I’m not convinced of that. I’m not sure anyone knows. There could be unintended consequences. Or maybe I’m worried about ghosts that aren’t there."

While embryonic stem cell research has never helped a single patient, and caused tumors and sparked immune system rejection issues when used in animals, alternatives are faring well.

A new process called direct reprogramming has been able to convert adult stem cells into an embryonic-like state where they are already showing promising results. Those iPS cells, combined with adult stem cells, are the kind of ethical stem cell research pro-life advocates favor and they are showing the best hope for patients.

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