Pro-Life Group Opposes Gov. Doyle's Plan to Fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research

On Wednesday, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle announced a proposal for $750 million in funding to keep the state on the cutting edge of biomedical research, particularly in the field of stem cell research in which it is a pioneer.

The Wisconsin Governor’s proposal is in part a response to recent legislation in California to increase biomedical research spending. On November 2, 2004, California voters passed Proposition 71, an initiative to provide $3 billion in tax free state bonds to build the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. The institute will fund and regulate state stem cell research, including embryonic stem cell research.

Doyle hopes that his $750 million plan can keep Wisconsin on the forefront of stem cell research, stating that “Wisconsin can't match California dollar for dollar, but California can't match what Wisconsin already has, including the best scientists in the world and first-class research institutions.”

While the governor’s proposal sets the stage for advancement in biomedical research and technology, pro-life groups oppose the use of state funds for embryonic stem cell research. Wisconsin Right to Life, the state’s leading pro-life group, immediately announced its opposition to Doyle’s proposal, citing the plan’s support for expansion of embryonic stem cell research, a controversial topic in recent news.

Currently, President Bush has allowed some federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, allowing studies to be conducted on a limited number of lines. The proposal by Doyle would expand the state’s embryonic stem cell research beyond the limit set by federal legislation.

Under the plan, a $375 million research institute would be built on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus for biomedical research, including biochemistry, nanotechnology, and computer engineering. Within the facility, scientists would be allowed to conduct embryonic stem cell research with private funding. WiCell, a private organization working on stem cell research, would also be allowed to join the institute.

While adult stem cells have been used in research to treat a number of diseases, the use of embryonic stem cells has been the source of heated debate. Human embryonic stem cells may contribute to treatment of illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease- the problem is that the embryos from which the stem cells are take are destroyed in the process. Pro-life groups oppose such research, arguing that adult stem cells are sufficient for research.

Wisconsin Right to Life executive director Barbara Lyons issued a press release yesterday, stating “Wisconsin Right to Life supports the use of tax dollars for the use of ethical research which does not involve the creation and/or destruction of human life. We will work with legislators to insure that Governor Doyle’s proposal is amended to exclude unethical research.”