The Canton Repository

August 24, 2001

Stem cell controversy splits Ohio lawmakers 

Copley New Service

WASHINGTON — Research on embryonic stem cells, and even on human clones, offers hope for vastly improved treatments and cures for spinal cord injuries, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other ailments.

But this very same research divides lawmakers in Ohio and across the nation because it involves, in many people’s minds, the destruction of potential or actual human life.

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, and Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, are among lawmakers who have expressed support for President Bush’s policy on stem-cell research, despite the fears of some that Bush’s approach severely limits research opportunities.

In announcing the policy Aug. 9, Bush said he will allow federal funding of research on some 60 existing stem-cell lines derived from human embryos while prohibiting aid for research on any new stem-cell lines.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, expressed disappointment at any federal spending to support embryonic stem cell research. But he lauded the president for at least banning aid for research on new stem-cell lines.

The debate centers on embryonic stem cells that are extracted from embryos created within in vitro fertilization clinics when an egg is fertilized with sperm in the laboratory. The extraction of stem cells results in the destruction of the embryo, which otherwise could be implanted in a woman’s uterus to develop into a fetus.

“I think the president made a good decision on stem cells,” said Regula, who chairs an Appropriations subcommittee that allocates funding for the National Institutes of Health, which oversees federal aid for stem cell research. “He made it very limited.”

As subcommittee chairman, Regula has listened to testimony from physicians, researchers, patients and others who believe in the potential of stem cell research. “It gives them hope, and until it’s proven otherwise, they feel this will possibly be a cure. And obviously if you have a disease that now has no remedy you’re looking for anything that gives you hope,” he said.

DeWine, who also supports the Bush policy, is blunt in opposing the destruction of embryos resulting from the creation of stem cell lines.

Voinovich objects to any federal funding of embryonic stem cell research because, he said, “millions of Americans don’t want their tax dollars used for embryonic research.”

On another issue, human cloning, Sawyer split with Ney and Regula. While Regula and Ney voted for a successful House bill to ban any form of human cloning, reproductive or therapeutic, on July 31, Sawyer backed an unsuccessful alternative that would have legalized therapeutic cloning for research.

DeWine and Voinovich also favor a broad prohibition against cloning. A ban has been introduced in the Senate.