Davis Signs Legislation To Bolster Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Therapeutic Cloning
Gov. Gray Davis (D) yesterday signed into law a bill (SB 253) that will "make California a haven" for embryonic stem cell research, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), provides legal protection for embryonic stem cell research, including research on stem cells taken from cloned embryos, and establishes a "broad regulatory framework" for the research. The bill states that an "approved industry review board" must review stem cell research but does not provide details about the board or offer guidelines for research approval (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/23). In addition, the legislation requires fertility clinics to inform patients that they may donate their unused embryos for medical research and to obtain written consent for embryo donations. The bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, prohibits the sale of embryos (Coleman, AP/Nando Times, 9/22). "Stem cell research is responsible research that could potentially save millions of lives. With world-class universities, top-flight researchers and a thriving biomedical industry, California is perfectly positioned to be a world leader in this area," Davis said (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 9/23). Davis also signed a separate bill (SB 1230) that makes permanent the state's five-year moratorium on human reproductive cloning, which would have expired Jan. 1 (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/23).
According to the Washington Post, California lawmakers passed the stem cell law to "draw a contrast with federal efforts to constrain" embryonic stem cell research (Connolly, Washington Post, 9/22). "Since it's very unlikely that Congress will be able to agree on (stem cell and cloning) legislation, California has really taken steps in advance of what the federal government is able to do," David Gollaher, president and CEO of the California Healthcare Institute, said (Jones, Los Angeles Times, 9/22). The Post reports that the legislation may prompt Congress to vote on two rival federal bills -- one bill (S 2439) that would allow therapeutic cloning but would ban reproductive cloning and a second bill (S 1899) that would ban human cloning. "The governor feels strongly about putting California ahead of the pack in promoting and encouraging stem cell research," Steve Maviglio, a spokesperson for Davis, said, adding, "We'd like to encourage Washington to stop playing politics and support this research" (Washington Post, 9/22).
According to the Los Angeles Times, the legislation also could "inject the controversy" over cloning and stem cell research into the state's gubernatorial race. Republican candidate Bill Simon may have to "choose between supporting his conservative base on the issue or siding with the state's economically vital biomedical and pharmaceutical industries," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 9/22). Davis, who scheduled a conference call with supporters of therapeutic cloning and stem cell research to announce the passage of the bill, also plans to send a letter to more than 10,000 scientists to invite them to submit stem cell research proposals to California (Washington Post, 9/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.