South Dakota Panel Hears Bill Monday on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 28, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Panel Hears Bill Monday on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 28
, 2010

Pierre, SD ( — A South Dakota legislative panel will hold a hearing on Monday on legislation that would overturn the state’s ban on tax-funding of embryonic stem cell research. While adult stem 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. Instead, he decided to work with legislators to overturn the ban through the state legislature.

The result is Senate Bill 74 and it is slated for a hearing on Monday morning in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Kelly Benson, the co-director of the Respect Life Office at the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, contacted about the latest developments.

"We have been told that there may be an amendment offered which will significantly change the bill, but it will remain a pro-embryonic stem cell research bill," she said. "This is not assured and we are not yet privy to the text of such amendment."

As a result, Benson told she is urging pro-life advocates to "contact the members of this committee and urge them to oppose SB 74 and any amendments to it that would allow embryonic stem cell research or the use of embryonic stem cells in our state, now or in the future, and to keep our laws as they are."

Due to inclement weather last week, the state legislature has been slow in moving bills but Benson said she expects the pace to pick up rapidly.

If past failure is any indication of future votes, the legislature likely won’t favor the bill. The state Senate voted 20-14 last year against legislation to repeal the ban.

Chris Hupke, president of the South Dakota Family Policy Council, told the Argus Leader newspaper earlier this month 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.

ACTION: Contact the mebers of the committee to oppose the bill by going to the legislature web site at

Related web sites:
Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls –
South Dakota Right to Life –

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