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Massachusetts faces battle on stem cells

14 February 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 295

Robert Travaglini, President of the Senate in the US state of Massachusetts, has introduced a new bill that would support the development of embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research in the state. While it does not provide for state funding of such, he claims that the bill would show that Massachusetts endorses the research and would provide a climate where ES cell researchers would feel supported by the state. He said that he introduced the measure to 'send a clear message that we are going to authorise this kind of research', particularly in the light of the November 2004 vote in California, which will provide $3 billion of state funds for ES cell research. Following California, Richard Codey, the acting governor of the state of New Jersey, announced that he plans to spend $380 million on ES cell research.

In 2003, the Massachusetts state Senate 'overwhelmingly' passed similar legislation, but this was later blocked by Speaker Thomas Finneran in the state House of Representatives. This time, however, Salvatore DiMasi, the current House Speaker, has stated that he is in 100 per cent agreement with Travaglini on the issue.

Travaglini's bill would ban human reproductive cloning but would allow human embryos to be created for research by CNR (cell nucleus replacement ), the same procedure used to clone Dolly the sheep. The bill, if passed, would also set up a stem cell advisory committee to oversee ES cell research and establish safeguards. It would also overturn an old law, designed to discourage abortion, which would require prior approval for research from district attorneys.

Following the introduction of Travaglini's bill on Wednesday, Mitt Romney, the state Governor of Massachusetts, said that he plans to introduce a different bill, banning the creation of embryos for research. Romney campaigned for his position saying that he supported stem cell research, along with his wife, who has multiple sclerosis. However, he says that only ES cell research that uses donated embryos left over from fertility treatments should be able to take place in the state. He said that 'some practices', including cloning (CNR), 'cross the line of ethical conduct'. 'Lofty goals do not justify the creation of life for experiment and destruction', he added.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Massachusetts Governor Opposes Stem Cell Work
The New York Times |  10 February 2005
Romney draws fire on stem cells
The Boston Globe |  11 February 2005
Senators File Bill for Stem Cell Research
Yahoo Daily News |  10 February 2005
Travaglini files measure supporting stem-cell research
The Boston Globe |  10 February 2005
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