Language contained in a petition to overturn the prohibition of embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research in Michigan has been accepted by the state board of canvassers. The petition now requires over 380,000 signatures for it to be placed on November's ballot, when citizens will be allowed to cast their vote on the issue. The approval marks the official start for campaigning on both sides.
Governor Jennifer Granholm voiced her support for the petition. 'I think it is important for Michigan to be pro-science,' she said, adding: 'I think being pro-cure is pro-life.' If approved, the measure will reverse Michigan's long-standing prohibition on research involving the destruction of embryos and will allow scientists to use 'spare' embryos donated from IVF in stem cell research.
Proponents have expressed concerns that Michigan's restrictive climate regarding stem cell research is deterring scientists and companies from working and investing in the state. 'The law in Michigan puts us at such a disadvantage in embryonic stem cell research that people in that area don't even apply for jobs here', said Sean Morrison of the University of Michigan.
Michigan's Right to Life group, which is running a television advertisement campaign against embryo research, has spoken out against the petition. Kathleen Hulst, who featured in the advertisements, expressed her opposition: 'It's using human life-the embryo has to die in order to use the cells', she said.
The campaign to put the petition on the ballot box is expected to cost up to $10 million. 'We are preparing for everything they can throw at us', said campaign director, Mark Burton. 'The one thing we will not do is underestimate the opposition', he added.
Elsewhere, a bill that prohibits the use of state funds and facilities for embryo research has been proposed in the state of Nebraska. The use of embryos in Nebraska is not currently prohibited, but scientists in the state have not used embryos other than the cell-lines approved for federal funding by President Bush. Under the bill, this would continue to be permitted.