The Senate of the state of Washington, US, has delayed for a second time a vote on a bill (House Bill 1268) that would allow embryonic stem cell (ES) research to take place on human embryos left over from fertility treatments and donated for research. The delay, the second in as many days, occurred after an 'emotional' debate in which one state Senator, Republican Alex Deccio, compared ES cell research to the Holocaust and genocide in Africa.
Senator Deccio, a World War II veteran, said he had vivid memories of bodies stacked at concentration camps when he visited them after the war had ended. 'To see those bodies stacked... they were embryos at one point', he said, adding 'but somebody decided those people should be done away with'. He went on to say similar things about genocide, then added: 'we're talking about the same thing... we've developed a culture of death in this world today'.
Other Senators took exception to the comparisons. Senator Adam Kline said 'this is a bill about the use of science and the application by law of ethical rules to science'. He added: 'This is a far cry from the Holocaust and I personally have a difficult time accepting any kind of political rhetoric that attempts to draw moral equivalency between science on one hand and murder of millions of people on the other'.
Washington State currently has no law governing ES cell research. The new bill also proposes to prohibit human cloning, and an amendment that would extend the penalties for any scientist doing this was approved last week. The bill does not allow the creation of embryos for research and imposes ethical guidelines on what can be done with left over embryos. 'We would not have those kind of guidelines in the absence of this bill', said Senate majority leader Lisa Brown, adding that 'this bill is an important step forward'. The vote has now been postponed until this week, although Republican senators tried to get it postponed indefinitely. If the bill passes through the Senate, it will then be sent back to the House of Representatives for its agreement.