White House Criticizes New California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Law
The White House yesterday "took issue" with a new California law (SB 253) that supports embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning, despite efforts by the Bush administration to limit or prohibit the practices, the Los Angeles Times reports. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that President Bush "believes that all policies, state or federal, need to respect the culture of life" (Zitner, Los Angeles Times, 9/24). The California law, which Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed on Sunday, 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 law states that an approved industry review board must review stem cell research. 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. Davis on Sunday also signed a separate bill (SB 1230) into law that makes permanent the state's five-year moratorium on human reproductive cloning, which would have expired Jan. 1 (California Healthline, 9/23).
In response to the passage of the California law, antiabortion groups yesterday called on Congress to pass legislation that would ban the use of human cloning in both embryonic stem cell research and reproductive technologies, the Washington Times reports (Sorokin, Washington Times, 9/24). Although federal legislation that prohibits embryonic stem cell research or therapeutic cloning would "trump" the California law, supporters of the state law said that they would take the issue to court in the event that Congress passed a federal ban (Los Angeles Times, 9/24). Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), who sponsored the California law, said, "When we calculate the cost to our health care system and human suffering and pain, we understand the promise of the next level of treatment [that could result from embryonic stem cell research]. I'm just hoping the rest of the country understands that where California is going is where they should also embark" (Washington Times, 9/24). "Marketplace" yesterday reported on the new California law. The segment includes comments from Dr. Larry Goldstein from the University of California-San Diego Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Dr. David Gollaher from the biomedical lobby of the California Healthcare Institute and Glenn McGee, editor of the American Journal of Bioethics. A transcript and audio of the segment in RealPlayer are available online (Palmer, "Marketplace," MPR, 9/23).
Meanwhile, according to a Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial, the new California stem cell research law may -- "unfortunately -- be mainly symbolic." The editorial points out that "most medical research is funded with federal grants -- which have been significantly limited for stem cell research." However, the editorial concludes that "this measure is a statement in support of stem cell research, which has the potential to save millions of lives. And it may help stop the brain-drain that is occurring as scientists leave the state to work in countries that allow stem cell research" (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 9/24).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.