Nebraska's Revised Stem Cell Bill Gets Pro-Life OK

A Nebraska legislative committee, with the backing of a statewide pro-life group, has advanced a new version of a bill that had earlier been touted incorrectly by some media outlets as a compromise between pro-life groups and legislators who back cloning for research.

The Judiciary Committee had passed a version of LB 606 earlier this month to ban cloning for reproductive purposes.

Pro-life advocates, however, had expressed concerns over at least four sections in the measure, with Nebraska Right to Life arguing that the wording would have allowed scientists to freely clone and kill human embryos for research purposes.

The new version of LB 606, which the committee approved Wednesday, now bans the use of public funds to create human embryos for the purpose of destroying them for research.

"We vigorously opposed this 'clone and kill' language as it could have emboldened private sector cloning labs to come into Nebraska and we are thankful it was removed," said NRL executive director Julie Schmit-Albin in a statement.

The pro-life lobbyist noted, however, that the changes to bill the only addressed some of her group's concerns over unethical medical research and does not completely prohibit the cloning of humans.

Still, she added, "[w]hile bioethics is not an area that invites compromise, we acknowledge that we gain enough with LB 606 to merit supporting it."

"Though it isn't everything we wanted in LB 700, this is one of those times where we can gain something or achieve nothing and we chose the former," Schmit-Albin stated, referring to what she called "the true cloning ban."

Chip Maxwell, executive director of Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research, also acknowledged that the bill was not "comprehensive" in banning reproductive cloning but "it blocks such research in the public sector."

"That possibility is what prompted the effort to ban cloning in the first place," he said in a statement.

According to reports, both sides on the issue have agreed not to pursue further legislation governing embryonic stem cell research or cloning unless the private sector in Nebraska conducts research that destroys embryos.

"We retain the ability to push for a legislative ban on that if it does happen in Nebraska," said Schmit-Albin.