STATE BUDGET: FUNDING EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH
Revised Code 184.02
AUTHOR: Melanie Elsey
June 22 2005
The Ohio General Assembly completed their work on the state budget yesterday with a final vote in the House of 53-46 and Senate 19-13. (see roll call below) One important policy debate within the budget involved the use of state tax dollars for stem cell research involving human embryos. The final package, on its way to Governor Taft's desk, includes a clear prohibition against funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Ohio Revised Code, section 184.02(C)
“Notwithstanding the authority granted to the commission under sections 184.01 to 184.04 of the Revised Code, the commission shall not make any grants or loans to individuals, public agencies, private companies or organizations, or joint ventures for any activities involving stem cell research with human embryonic tissue.”
Why is this issue important?
For the first time the State of Ohio would be establishing policy in state law on the issue of embryonic stem cell research. It is important that this language clearly land on the State's intent to respect the sanctity of life! The destruction of human life, even for the purpose of important medical research, crosses an ethical barrier that should not be breached.
The Third Frontier Advisory Commission (established in December 2002) has 16 members, of which 14 are appointed by the Governor. The Commission oversees the expansion of biomedical research and biotechnology in the state. They establish criteria for the scientific merit of activities supported by the program. Third Frontier Funds are authorized under the budget for the Department of Development.
Central to this debate is the fact that there are more scientifically credible approaches to stem cell research -- in lieu of harvesting human embryos! Umbilical cord stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood share the characteristics of embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells taken from various adult human tissues have been successfully used in therapies for over 90 diseases, including various cancers, strokes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease. These types of research could certainly be funded with state resources.
Governor Taft is expected to sign the budget in the next few days. He is required to do so before June 30th. Since he has line-item veto authority over the state budget, he needs to be contacted and asked to support the prohibition on state tax dollars for human embryonic stem cell research. He should NOT exercise his veto authority on this protective language!
The Ohio House is preparing to vote sometime next week. Stem cell research funding will also be central to the public debate on this constitutional policy. More information will be provided as this issue makes its way to the statewide ballot in November.