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Stem cells and politics in the US

18 October 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 280

John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in the US, has criticised President Bush's policy on embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research in a weekly Democrat's radio address. On 9 August 2001, Bush restricted federally-funded researchers to working on ES cell lines already in existence by that date. Now, the common consensus among scientists is that fewer of these lines are available than researchers were told, and those that are available are of inferior quality to cell lines created since that date.

In the broadcast, Kerry stated that if he was elected, he would make ES cell research funding 'a top priority in our government agencies, our universities and our medical community'. He called the restriction on research 'a ban that's tied the hands of our scientists and shut down some of our most promising work on spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's and other life-threatening diseases'. He also praised Christopher Reeve, the actor and stem cell research campaigner who died last week, saying that Reeve had left him a message the day before he died which thanked him for highlighting the possibilities of ES cell research in his election campaign.

Meanwhile, surveys last week suggested that public support for California's Proposition 71 is growing. Proposition 71 is a bill that would provide $3 billion in funding for ES cell research within the state. The bill will be voted on in state elections on 2 November, the same day as the US presidential elections take place. If passed, California would become the first US state to publicly fund ES cell research: $295 million in state funds would be provided annually, for ten years, to Californian universities, institutes and companies wishing to conduct ES cell research, subject to certain limits. Proposition 71 would also create a 29-member panel to determine how the funds would be administered.

A poll of 549 Californian voters showed that 46 per cent were in favour of the bill, against 39 per cent opposed. Within these numbers, 58 per cent of voters familiar with the proposals were in favour, which suggests that a multi-million dollar advertising campaign is working. Last week, actor Michael J Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, appeared in an advert that appeared throughout California, urging voters to vote in favour of Proposition 71. In the advert he says that Proposition 71 'will support research to find cures for diseases that affect millions of people', adding 'it could save the life of someone you love'.

Actor Michael J Fox to appear in ad promoting Calif. Initiative that would fund human embryonic stem cell research
Kaiser Network |  15 October 2004
Future of humans key factor in battle for future of US
The Scotsman |  18 October 2004
Kerry Faults Bush on Stem Cell Research Restriction in Radio Address
Medical News Today |  18 October 2004
Kerry talks stem cells in radio address
The Seattle Post |  16 October 2004
4 November 2004 - by BioNews 
Voters in the US state of California have passed Proposition 71, a bill also known as the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. Fifty-nine per cent of people voted in favour, with 41 per cent voting against the measure, which will establish California as the first state to publicly...
1 November 2004 - by BioNews 
In the final run-up to the US presidential election on 2 November, both candidates have been heavily campaigning, including on the issue of embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry promises to abandon the restrictions placed on ES cell research by Bush in 2001. Bush's policy limits...
20 October 2004 - by BioNews 
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California, has formally endorsed a bill that, if passed, would provide $3 billion of funding for embryonic stem (ES) cell research in the state over the next ten years. The bill, known as proposition 71, or the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative...
3 September 2004 - by BioNews 
Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman, has boosted a California ballot proposition that would provide $3 billion in funding for embryonic stem (ES) cell research within the state, by donating $400,000 in support of a 'yes' vote. The bill, known as proposition 71, will be voted on in state elections on...
16 August 2004 - by BioNews 
Voters in California are said to be 'evenly divided' over a bill that would provide the state with $3 billion of funding for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Known as Proposition 71, or the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, the bill will be part of the 2...
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