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Romney vetoes Massachusetts stem cell bill

31 May 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 310

Mitt Romney, the State Governor of Massachusetts, US, has vetoed a piece of legislation on embryonic stem cell (ES cells) research that has already been passed twice by state lawmakers. The legislation, which was sponsored by Senate President Robert Travaglini, allows embryos to be cloned for medical research purposes, but prohibits human reproductive cloning. The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the bill by 119 votes to 38, having previously passed through the state Senate by 34 votes to two. Last week, both the House and Senate rejected four amendments proposed by Romney.

The legislation also sets up a stem cell advisory committee to oversee ES cell research in the state and establish safeguards, although it does not provide state funds for researchers. The advisory committee would also advise lawmakers on the issues in ES cell research and, for example, look into issues such as whether women who donate their cloned for ES cell research should be compensated.

The margin of both votes meant that the legislation can withstand any veto from Romney, who opposes ES cell research. Originally, instead of using the veto, Romney proposed four amendments. One would have prohibited the creation of cloned embryos for scientific research, contrary to the original bill. Another would have changed the state's definition of when life begins - Romney wanted the legislation to say that this is at fertilisation, rather than the definition actually contained in the legislation, which states that life begins at the point an embryo is implanted into the womb.

A third amendment recommended that the legislation be amended to prohibit payment to women donating eggs for their time and discomfort, and only allow payment for proven expenses. Finally, Romney wanted a 'loophole' to be closed that he says would currently allow scientists to exploit students for their eggs and sperm. He said that a provision that currently bans the donation of embryos for research would not prevent researchers creating embryos and working on their own projects - because technically they would not be 'donating' embryos to themselves.

Despite some support in the House for some of the proposed changes, Romney's amendments were all rejected in full and the bill was returned to him in its original form for his signature. Explaining his veto, Romney said in a letter to the state lawmakers that 'it is wrong to allow science to take an assembly line approach to the production of human embryos, the creation of which will be rooted in experimentation and destruction'. However, the Massachusetts State legislature is expected to vote to override the veto this week.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Massachusetts Gov. Romney Vetoes Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill
LifeNews.com |  27 May 2005
Romney Vetoes Stem Cell Bill for Mass.
The Washington Post |  27 May 2005
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