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US elections will decide country's stem cell policy

1 November 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 282

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 cell (ES) research. Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry promises to abandon the restrictions placed on ES cell research by Bush in 2001. Bush's policy limits federally-funded researchers in the US to working only on ES cell lines already in existence by 9 August 2001. Many scientists believe that there are too few of these lines and that those cell lines available have limited usefulness. They say that ES cell research in the US is less advanced than it could be, although American scientists are free to create new cell lines using private funds.

Republicans, including Bush, have accused the Kerry campaign of over-emphasising the potential of ES cells. Bush's position is that the destruction of early embryos - necessary to derive ES cells - is the destruction of human life. Kerry was supported by the late Christopher Reeve, who campaigned for the use of ES cells in spinal injury research. Actor Michael J Fox, a Parkinson's disease sufferer, and a number of other famous names, including Nancy Reagan, also support Kerry. The Bush campaign has also criticised Kerry for saying that the President 'banned' ES cell research with federal money, insisting that Bush is the first president ever to fund such research. But, say the Democrats, while Bush may have granted the first funds, the policy was put in place by his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

Republican Senator Arlen Specter, campaigning for re-election to the Senate on 2 November, has 'veered into lonely territory for a Republican', by publicly announcing his support for ES cell research in the days before the election. National opinion polls have tended to show a majority of people in favour of ES cell research and he is hoping to use this to influence the votes. But commentators warn that he - and Kerry - risk 'alienating some conservative voters who have ethical concerns about the science'.

ES cell research is also a hot topic in Californian state elections, which take place on the same day as the presidential elections. According to a poll released on Sunday 31 October, over half of those likely to vote in state elections in California are in favour of Proposition 71, a bill that would provide $3 billion of funding for ES cell research in the state over the next ten years. The bill, also known as the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, will, if passed, make California the first US state to publicly fund ES cell research. It would provide $295 million in state funds annually, over the ten year period, 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. The latest poll shows 54 per cent of voters in favour of the measure, with 37 per cent opposed and 9 per cent undecided. Support is far higher among Democrats than Republicans.

California could shatter Bush's national stem cell stance
The Sierra Times |  29 October 2004
Majority of California Voters Favor Initiative To Fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Poll Shows
Kaiser Network |  1 November 2004
Sen. Specter Focuses on Stem Cell Support To Attract Moderate Voters, Distances Himself From Bush in Re-Election Campaign
Kaiser Network |  29 October 2004
Stem cells still politically potent |  29 October 2004
7 February 2005 - by BioNews 
In his State of the Union speech last week, US President George Bush expressed his support for the advancement of science, but made a pledge to support a 'culture of life', calling for a ban on the creation of embryos for research purposes. 'To build a culture of life, we...
24 January 2005 - by BioNews 
A new study has brought more bad news for federally-funded US stem cell researchers. Dr Arjit Varki and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, say that all the human embryonic stem (ES) cell lines currently approved for use by state researchers...
20 December 2004 - by BioNews 
The first chairman has been appointed to oversee the newly created Californian Institute for Regenerative Medicine, it was reported last week. Robert N Klein, a real estate developer, was also one of the brains behind Proposition 71, the bill passed on 2 November that allowed California to break away from...
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...
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...
18 October 2004 - by BioNews 
John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in the US, has criticised President Bush's policy on embryonic stem (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...
11 October 2004 - by BioNews 
John Kerry, the US Democratic presidential candidate, has teamed up with Michael J Fox, the actor, to criticise President Bush's policy on embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The policy, which has been in place since 9 August 2001, restricts federally-funded researchers to working on ES cell lines already created by...
4 October 2004 - by BioNews 
A team of high-profile scientists, including 10 Nobel prize winners and two former presidential advisers, has set up a new group to put pressure on President Bush about his science policies. The group, called Scientists and Engineers for Change (SEC), is touring ten 'campaign battleground states', accusing the president of...
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...
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