FLORIDA ENTERS STEM CELL DEBATE by Roxanne Escobales

11/27/06

Florida gears up for a battle over stem cell research. Two opposing ballot amendments before the state Supreme Court have the pro-life camp pitted against science. WMNF’s Roxanne Escobales reports.

Many believe embryonic stem cell research could lead to cures for diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. And the two proposed ballot amendments being considered for approval by the state supreme court push on opposite sides of the debate. One would guarantee a funding stream in the state budget to finance embryonic stem cell research. The other would categorically prohibit it.

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Susan Cutaia is the president of Citizens for Science and Ethics in Florida. That group says it’s not against adult stem cell research, but it is against embryonic stem cell research.

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Embyronic stem cells are valued for their ability to grow into any type of human tissue, while adult stem cells have limited capabilities. Legally, embryos have no protection as human life. And in the US, 400-thousand embryos originally meant for in vitro fertilization are not being used. The couples who created them, for instance, have either had successful pregnancies or are now divorced. Yet the embryos still sit frozen in storage.

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Lois Shepherd is a law professor at Florida State University who specializes in bioethics.

Shepherd says that with public funding comes higher standards of regulation.

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The proposed ballot amendment seeking funding asks for 20 million dollars a year for ten years, or 200 million dollars total. This could be seen as a long-term investment for the state.

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The group seeking the funding, Floridians for Stem Cell Research and Cures, declined to be interviewed.

To make it on the 2008 ballot, both sides need over 600-hundred-thousand signatures each by February of that year.

For information on the push for state funding go to floridacures.com, or for information regarding the attempt to ban funding for embryonic stem cell research in Florida go to scienceandethics.org.

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