Skip to comments.Massachusetts Governor Opposes Stem Cell Work
Posted on 02/10/2005 5:28:40 PM PST by wagglebee
BOSTON, Feb. 9 - Setting up a political battle over stem cell research, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts said this week that he would propose legislation to outlaw a type of embryonic stem cell research that is being planned by laboratories at Harvard University and other institutions in the state.
The governor's remarks came as Democratic lawmakers were introducing legislation that would promote embryonic stem cell research, partly in an effort to keep the state's large stable of research scientists and biotechnology companies from moving to California or other states that are providing support or financial incentives for such research.
The president of the Massachusetts Senate, Robert E. Travaglini, a Democrat, introduced such a bill on Wednesday, saying he wanted "to send a clear message that we are going to authorize this kind of research."
His bill would change a 30-year-old law that made it harder to conduct stem cell studies because it required the approval of county district attorneys, and would embrace research on stem cells derived from embryos. Future bills may offer scientists financial incentives, Mr. Travaglini said.
Many proponents of the bill have assumed they would have the backing of Mr. Romney, a Republican whose wife, Ann, has multiple sclerosis, a disease that could potentially be helped by the research. Mr. Romney had previously said he supported stem cell research in general, but had not elaborated.
But in an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Romney said that he was strongly against a type of embryonic stem cell research that many scientists consider extremely promising: research that involves creating human embryos specifically for scientific experimentation.
The governor said he would oppose any bill, like the one Wednesday, that would allow that method. And he said he would propose his own legislation that would establish criminal and civil penalties for research like that being planned by labs at Harvard University and Children's Hospital.
"Some of the practices that Harvard and probably other institutions in Massachusetts are engaged in cross the line of ethical conduct," Mr. Romney said.
He added: "My wife has M.S., and we would love for there to be a cure for her disease and for the diseases of others. But there is an ethical boundary that should not be crossed."
Stem cells derived from embryos are controversial because, unlike stem cells obtained from adults or from umbilical cords, the only way to obtain them is to destroy the embryo. Those stem cells, which are taken from what is essentially a clump of cells that constitutes an embryo that is a few days old, are considered the most promising because they have the potential to develop into any kind of cell.
The embryos can come from two sources: fertility clinics that have leftover embryos from in-vitro fertilization and embryos created solely for the purpose of research, known as therapeutic cloning. Scientists say fertility clinics would provide a limited number of embryos because many couples choose to store them rather than give them up.
Unlike some other social conservatives, including President Bush, Mr. Romney said he did not object to scientists' obtaining stem cells from fertility clinic embryos because those would probably be discarded anyway and because they were created with the intention of helping couples generate life.
Mr. Romney said he would allow research on embryos obtained from fertility clinics as long as the couples who created the embryos gave written permission, were not paid and were offered the options of rejecting research in favor of storing the embryos or giving them up for adoption.
But Mr. Romney said he objected to therapeutic cloning because "creation for the purpose of destruction is wrong."
The governor's position runs counter to the actions that many other states are considering. After California's decision last year to invest $3 billion in embryonic stem cell research, at least seven other states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are considering steps to encourage researchers in the field or provide economic incentives.
Dr. Douglas A. Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, has plans to start research with embryos created explicitly for that purpose. He is interested in creating stem cells with a particular disease, such as Alzheimer's or diabetes, so that scientists can try to understand why some people develop these diseases, how they develop and how they can be treated.
"It is the only method that I can think of now to get at the root causes of these diseases," Dr. Melton said.
Were Mr. Romney's proposal to become law, he said, "that would be not only disastrous, it would set science back significantly if they did that."
"Essentially what we would be saying," he said, "is we do not want to let scientists get at the root causes of these diseases."
Mr. Romney said he met with Dr. Melton to gather information to help him formulate his position.
If the governor's proposal passes, "some of the things he's doing would be decidedly against the law," Mr. Romney said of Dr. Melton.
Republicans make up only about 15 percent of the legislature, and Mr. Romney may not have the political muscle to get his proposal passed, even if he wins over the sizable number of conservative Democrats in this heavily Roman Catholic state.
Indeed, his effort may be more calibrated to a national stage. While he is seeking re-election in 2006, Mr. Romney is often said to have national political ambitions, and some political analysts believe he emphasizes his conservative social views, which are out of sync with the majority of his state, to earn points with Republicans at the national level.
Still, Mr. Romney's input on the issue in the state cannot be completely discounted. Many lawmakers in both parties are wrangling with the complexities of the research.
Senator Jack Hart, a Democrat who is co-chairman of the committee handling the Travaglini bill, said that he was opposed to abortion, as is Mr. Romney, and that he questioned the creation of embryos solely for research purposes.
"The concern I think that the majority of the people have out there is if, all of a sudden as a result of stem cell research, there's creation en masse of human embryos for the sake of research," Mr. Hart said.
In the last legislative session, a measure to endorse stem cell research overwhelmingly passed the 40-member Senate, but did not come to a vote in the 160-member House because the speaker, Thomas M. Finneran, a conservative Democrat, blocked it.
Mr. Finneran stepped down last fall. His replacement, Salvatore F. DiMasi, supports the research, so many believe the measure has a better chance of passing this year.
Mr. Travaglini, whose bill bans the cloning of humans for reproductive purposes and requires all research to be approved by an ethical review board, said he favored both kinds of embryonic stem cell research because of "the potential for medical breakthroughs."
He said he expected resistance from legislators opposed to abortion, who are outnumbered by legislators who favor abortion rights.
Romney is sounding better all the time.
also, non homosexual marriage ping
One Man, One Woman
A citizen's guide to protecting marriage.
BY MITT ROMNEY
Thursday, February 5, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST
No matter how you feel about gay marriage, we should be able to agree that the citizens and their elected representatives must not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to society as the definition of marriage. There are lessons from my state's experience that may help other states preserve the rightful participation of their legislatures and citizens, and avoid the confusion now facing Massachusetts.
In a decision handed down in November, a divided Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts detected a previously unrecognized right in our 200-year-old state constitution that permits same-sex couples to wed. I believe that 4-3 decision was wrongly decided and is deeply mistaken.
Contrary to the court's opinion, marriage is not "an evolving paradigm." It is deeply rooted in the history, culture and tradition of civil society. It predates our Constitution and our nation by millennia. The institution of marriage was not created by government and it should not be redefined by government.
Marriage is a fundamental and universal social institution. It encompasses many obligations and benefits affecting husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter. It is the foundation of a harmonious family life. It is the basic building block of society: The development, productivity and happiness of new generations are bound inextricably to the family unit. As a result, marriage bears a real relation to the well-being, health and enduring strength of society.
Because of marriage's pivotal role, nations and states have chosen to provide unique benefits and incentives to those who choose to be married. These benefits are not given to single citizens, groups of friends, or couples of the same sex. That benefits are given to married couples and not to singles or gay couples has nothing to do with discrimination; it has everything to do with building a stable new generation and nation.
It is important that the defense of marriage not become an attack on gays, on singles or on nontraditional couples. We must recognize the right of every citizen to live in the manner of his or her own choosing. In fact, it makes sense to ensure that essential civil rights, protection from violence and appropriate societal benefits are afforded to all citizens, be they single or combined in nontraditional relationships.
So, what to do?
Act now to protect marriage in your state. Thirty-seven states--38 with recent actions by Ohio--have a Defense of Marriage Act. Twelve states, including Massachusetts, do not. I urge my fellow governors and all state legislators to review and, if necessary, strengthen the laws concerning marriage. Look to carefully delineate in the acts themselves the underlying, compelling state purposes. Explore, as well, amendments to the state constitution. In Massachusetts, gay rights advocates in years past successfully thwarted attempts to call a vote on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This cannot happen again. It is imperative that we proceed with the legitimate process of amending our state constitution.
Beware of activist judges. The Legislature is our lawmaking body, and it is the Legislature's job to pass laws. As governor, it is my job to carry out the laws. The Supreme Judicial Court decides cases where there is a dispute as to the meaning of the laws or the constitution. This is not simply a separation of the branches of government, it is also a balance of powers: One branch is not to do the work of the other. It is not the job of judges to make laws, the job of legislators to command the National Guard, or my job to resolve litigation between citizens. If the powers were not separated this way, an official could make the laws, enforce them, and stop court challenges to them. No one branch or person should have that kind of power. It is inconsistent with a constitutional democracy that guarantees to the people the ultimate power to control their government.
With the Dred Scott case, decided four years before he took office, President Lincoln faced a judicial decision that he believed was terribly wrong and badly misinterpreted the U.S. Constitution. Here is what Lincoln said: "If the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal." By its decision, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts circumvented the Legislature and the executive, and assumed to itself the power of legislating. That's wrong.
Act at the federal level. In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. While the law protects states from being forced to recognize gay marriage, activist state courts could reach a different conclusion, just as ours did. It would be disruptive and confusing to have a patchwork of inconsistent marriage laws between states. Amending the Constitution may be the best and most reliable way to prevent such confusion and preserve the institution of marriage. Sometimes we forget that the ultimate power in our democracy is not in the Supreme Court but rather in the voice of the people. And the people have the exclusive right to protect their nation and constitution from judicial overreaching.
People of differing views must remember that real lives and real people are deeply affected by this issue: traditional couples, gay couples and children. We should conduct our discourse with decency and respect for those with different opinions. The definition of marriage is not a matter of semantics; it will have lasting impact on society however it is ultimately resolved. This issue was seized by a one-vote majority of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. We must now act to preserve the voice of the people and the representatives they elect.
Mr. Romney is governor of Massachusetts.
This is a definite plus.
However, he is anti-gun.
Firearms are Constitutionally protected and I believe (assuming Bush is able to get a couple more conservatives on the SCOTUS) that anti-gun laws will be reined in. Abortion and gay marriage are two vital issues that are threatening to destroy the moral fiber of America.
Refresh my memory, who was the last Massachusetts governor who ran on the GOP ticket?
That showed real courage for a politician in Mass, and Romney should be commended for it.
But it would have been nice to see him stand up to the state's Sup Court, and declare the decision to be a reckless usurpation of power w/o any basis in the constitution, and as such refuse to enforce it.
I guess he could have been tossed by the Legislature, but then again maybe the people of that state would have rallied behind him, as at the time most opposed gay marriage.
It would have interesting.
Please FreepMail me if you want on or off my Pro-Life Ping List.
RICE/ROMNEY 2008, ROMNEY/RICE 2008?
The first one! Unless Zell Miller wants on the ticket.
I guess including "Embryonic" in the story title would make it too long...
I favor stem cell research.
I oppose murdering innocent human beings.
Therefore, I favor non-lethal (read "non-embryonic") stem cell research.
My views are not that important except that, as stated above, they are shared by millions. If we do not make this distinction between destructive and non-destructive, we run the risk of being perceived by the ignorant as opposing progress. And the ignorant vote.
Paul Cellucci and he brought that twit Jane Swift in as Lt. Gov. she turned out to be a real piece of work Cellucci left to be ambassador to Canada and left us with a moron in charge.
While I'm happy about this, he is still pro-abortion.
If he is the Republican Party's nominee in the 2008 election, most pro-lifers probably won't vote for him.
You are correct, Lexinom.
We need to write letters to editors in our home town newspapers distinguishing the difference between ADULT stem cells and EMBRYONIC stem cells. We also need to state that EMBRYONIC stem cells have not ever helped anyone, but that ADULT stems cells have helped so many.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.