Among other things, a group of lawmakers is working to reverse the will of the people and throw all sorts of roadblocks at embryonic stem cell research, which the voters approved last year.
They’ve introduced legislation in both the House and the Senate designed to prevent this enormously valuable work. Battle Creek physician and former Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz said it best: “They couldn’t stop it at the ballot box, so they are trying to stop it by throwing a regulatory banner at the research.”
Now, you can argue that embryonic stem cell research is highly controversial and that it should deserve careful consideration and vigorous debate, and you’d be right. We had that debate. We had a ferocious public battle and a statewide election on this less than a year ago. And the people decided.
Michigan citizens decisively voted last November to amend the state constitution to allow embryonic stem cell research. The measure passed by a quarter of a million votes. Despite a lot of misinformation, the facts are these:
Scientists are only allowed to use leftover embryos that are created in fertility clinics and then voluntarily donated. These are small clumps of cells that would otherwise be destroyed.
Incidentally, that amendment, combined with President Obama’s decision to lift the federal ban on funding such research, has been good for our state’s economy. The University of Michigan alone recently received $6.8 million in grants for this.
That means more research projects, and jobs.
However, a group of lawmakers in the House have sponsored a joint resolution calling for another constitutional amendment that would essentially repeal the one we passed last year.
They want an amendment saying that from the moment of fertilization, a cell is a person who has a right to life. This would, of course, end all stem cell research. Fortunately, that amendment isn’t going anywhere. What’s happening in the state senate is sneakier.
Tom George, a Republican from Kalamazoo, is trying to pass a package of “regulations” he says would “define and clarify” the rules for stem cell research. In fact, they would make such research virtually impossible, requiring, for example, that scientists determine whether an embryo had more than a fifty percent chance of surviving implantation before its cells could be used. Nobody can do that.
Sean Morrison, director of the U of M’s Center for Stem Cell Biology, testified that these bills “would impede the development of the life sciences sector by making it illegal to pursue mainstream forms of medical research widely accepted throughout the rest of the country.” What he didn’t say is that what Senator George is trying to do is also probably unconstitutional.
The amendment we passed says state law cannot restrict, obstruct, or discourage stem cell research.
The courts would probably throw these bills out. So here’s a suggestion. The people settled this issue last year. Senator George, you are a smart man. Why don’t you use your time and energy figuring out a way to adequately fund education in Michigan instead?