New Yorker Article Addresses Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research
The New Yorker in its Oct. 18 issue examines Proposition 71 in the context of the history of stem cell research in the United States (Bruck, New Yorker, 10/18). Proposition 71, an initiative on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, would fund stem cell research by issuing state bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center at a University of California campus, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects at other colleges. State analysts say the measure would cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 10/12).
The New Yorker traces the history of stem cell research in the United States, including a 1996 Congressional ban on federal funding to "create, damage or destroy human embryos for research"; a 1998 move by lawyers for the National Institutes of Health that determined government funding could be used for research involving embryonic stem cells but could not be used to create or destroy them; President Bush's 2001 approval of a policy that provided federal funding for research on existing stem cell lines; and the California legislature's approval in 2002 of a bill to allow therapeutic cloning of stem cells.
The 2002 California legislation addressing stem cell research prompted Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) to use the initiative process in an attempt to gain more state funding for stem cell research after a bill she introduced with that purpose was blocked by the Legislature. The article describes how Palo Alto real estate developer Bob Klein took up the cause, traveled around the state seeking endorsements and raised funds to market the initiative (New Yorker, 10/18).
A television advertisement in which actor Michael J. Fox asks state residents to support Proposition 71 will begin airing next week, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In the advertisement, Fox says that Proposition "71 will support research to find cures for diseases that affect millions of people ... including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Please support the effort to find cures. ... It could save the life of someone you love."
According to the Times, the advertisement is "the latest in a well-funded media campaign aimed at making California a magnet for embryonic stem cell research." Supporters of Proposition 71 have raised nearly $20 million, and those opposed to the initiative have raised $136,000.
Previous ads released by supporters of the measure have featured "leading scientists in the field" of stem cell research and "people suffering from diseases that proponents contend could be helped by the research," according to the Times.
Wayne Johnson, a lobbyist for the campaign opposing the initiative, said the campaign against Proposition 71 does not have enough resources to run a television commercial but added that the group is considering airing radio ads. Johnson said the ads run by Proposition 71 supporters are "all about hope and promise but very short about facts" (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 10/14).
Proposition 71, "arguably the most unique, intriguing measure" on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, may be "for a good cause," but "it's hard to look in the mirror and defend such longtime borrowing when we're already almost maxed out on the credit card," George Skelton writes in his "Capitol Journal" column for the Los Angeles Times. According to Skelton, "Sacramento is in such horrible shape financially" that payments for the stem cell program "would stretch out over 30 years, for research completed in roughly 12 years."
Skelton continues that the Proposition 71 bond -- which would be the first ever granted for research -- would "further squeeze health programs, such as care for low-income children and in-home services for the disabled." Skelton concludes that although "Sacramento government is already screwed up fiscally" and the measure "may screw it up more," at least the initiative "can make us proud. We're buying dreams -- that may come true" (Skelton, Los Angeles Times, 10/14).
KQED's "The California Report" on Wednesday reported on Proposition 71. The segment includes comments from Rex Green, a physician in San Mateo who opposes the initiative; Klein; Adrian Pine of the California Nurses Association; Dan Schnur, a Republican media and political strategist; and Irving Weissman, professor of pathology and developmental biology at Stanford University (Shafer, "The California Report," KQED, 10/13). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In addition, KPCC's "Talk of the City" on Thursday is scheduled to include a segment on Proposition 71 (Felde, "Talk of the City," KPCC, 10/14). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
Additional information on Proposition 71 is available online.