28 February 2011
Appeared in BioNews 597Legislation banning embryonic stem cell research in Oklahoma, United States, was approved by the state's House Committee last week. The House of Representatives' Public Health Committee narrowly passed the bill by six votes to five and it is now scheduled to go before the full House of Representatives.
The proposals would prohibit research which results in the destruction of the embryo and would also make it illegal to 'buy, sell, receive, or otherwise transfer' an embryo for such purposes. Transferring an embryo to be used in IVF would, however, be excluded from the restrictions.
'This legislation simply makes it illegal to create unborn children with the intent of killing them for research purposes', said the bill's author, Representative George Faught. 'Oklahoma can be pro-life, pro-research and pro-cure without endorsing embryo destruction', he said.
Faught said that 'embryonic stem cell research has not produced a single treatment and typically generates cancer tumours, not cures'. Instead, he supports adult stem cell research which he said 'is already helping patients overcome more than 70 diseases and disorders and does not require embryo destruction'.
The legislation states that the destruction of human embryos 'raises grave moral, ethical, scientific, and medical issues that must be addressed'. It says 'the moral justification for medical or scientific research cannot be based upon the dehumanising and utilitarian premise that the end justifies any means'.
In opposition to the proposals, Representative Doug Cox, a physician and Committee member, said: 'Embryonic stem cell research is extensively regulated under federal laws, as well as guidelines from national scientific academies. There is no need for state intervention'.
'Legislation outlawing such research in Oklahoma should fail if legislators are adequately informed of the facts, not misconceptions', he added.
The Oklahoma Legislature consists of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate, with 101 and 48 members accordingly, all elected directly by the people. In order for the bill to become law, both houses must agree to identical versions of the bill. After approval by both houses, the bill is sent to the Governor of Oklahoma who makes the final decision.
Former Governor of Oklahoma and Democrat, Brad Henry, vetoed a similar bill in the Republican-controlled legislature in 2009. The Oklahoma House voted to override the veto, but supporters of the bill were unable to get the two-thirds majority needed to do so.