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    Since embryonic stem cells were first independently isolated in 1981, the moral and political debate over the use of human embryos for scientific research has sparked the enactment of numerous federal and state laws. Under the Bush Administration, national law prevented federal funds from being used for research on any embryonic stem cell lines created after August 2001 ("NCSL"). On March 9, 2009, President Obama lifted these restrictions. The President signed an executive order allowing the federal government to invest millions of dollars in new embryonic stem cell research ("Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures"). .

    States have the sovereignty to make laws that either restrict or permit the use of embryonic stem cell research from some or all sources. Embryonic stem cell research law varies significantly by state. ESCR is strongly encouraged in the states of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. On the other hand, research on embryos is completely forbidden, regardless of the source, in South Dakota. Several states also restrict the use of taxes to fund embryonic stem cell research ("NCSL"). Only three states currently have constitutional safeguards for embryonic stem cell research, including Michigan. On November 4, 2008, Michigan citizens approved Proposal 2. This proposal overturned the 1978 Michigan law that prohibited the use of human embryos for research. Michigan researchers can derive new embryonic stem lines, as well as use the embryos already permitted under federal law ("Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures").

    Political actors remain highly involved in the human embryo research debate. Proponents of stem cell research emphasize the hope this research offers in providing cures to diseases such as certain types of cancer, muscular dystrophies, and Alzheimer's. Advocates also highlight that stem cells are derived from embryos that would have been discarded at fertility clinics anyway. In addition, proponents also claim that ESCR is regulated to ensure ethical requirements are met. Many advocates view the Obama Administration's easement of restrictions on the research as a major victory. The Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures applaud Obama's executive order, as well as Michigan's passage of Proposal 2. The organization states, "The winners from this extraordinary shift in our state's stem cell paradigm are the patients who are anxiously awaiting cures and treatments to improve their lives" ("Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures").

    While the current administration has loosened restrictions on federal funding, many embryonic stem cell researchers see the new policy as having come at a high cost. The National Institutes of Health created new guidelines requiring any stem cell lines being studied to meet strict ethical criteria. Any research involving new federal grants must be approved under these criteria. The NIH has currently approved 43 lines, but only one of these lines are of the original 21 Bush allowed. Much research has been conducted on these 20 lines that are currently awaiting approval. If these lines do not meet the new ethical requirements, much research will be lost and time wasted (Stein).

    Opponents of embryonic stem cell research accentuate several key points. Their most obvious claim is that embryos are human beings with a right to life and the taking of life is immoral and unethical. Opponents also believe that this questionable taking of life is unnecessary. New developments by Stanford researchers show that a new process could be used instead of using embryonic stem cells. In addition, adult stem cells are now being used in the medical field with great success. One such successful treatment is for chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). Jennifer Osman, after receiving treatment with her own stem cells in 2005, hasn't needed treatment since 2008. Opponents to ESCR also contend that while treatments with adult stem cells have produced numerous medical triumphs, there are currently no human patients who have been part of any human embryonic stem cell trial. As a challenger of ESCR, Right to Life states, "The extraction of embryonic stem cells from a human embryo kills the human embryo, an innocent human being. Embryonic stem cell research forces human beings to sacrifice their life without consent in the vague hope that their cells might one day cure another human being."

    With new national and Michigan state law favorable to embryonic stem cell research, opponents are seeking to ensure that these laws are not taken too far. The Embryo Research and Fertility Clinic Transparency Act is a bundle of bills recently introduced in the Michigan Legislature. The bill is not intended to restrict Proposal 2, but rather codify it into law. Supporters of the act want to establish that the approved amendment to the Michigan constitution only allows embryos remaining from fertility treatments to be destroyed for their stem cells. The act would ensure that embryos are not bought or sold, they are less than two weeks into development, and parents donating their embryos must provide written consent ("StemCellResearchCures.com").

     

    Works Cited

    "Michigan's Current Law." Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures. Michigan
    Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures, n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2010.
    <http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/currentlaw.html>.

    Stein, Rob. "Embryonic stem cell research stalled despite Obama's try at lifting restrictions."
    Washington Post (2010): 1. Web. 19 Apr 2010. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
    dyn/content/article/2010/03/14/AR2010031402353.html
    >.

    "Stem Cell Basics." StemCellResearchCures.com. Right to Life of Michigan Educational Fund,
    2010. Web. 19 Apr 2010. <http://www.stemcellresearchcures.com/>.

    "Stem Cell Research." NCSL (2008): 1. Web. 19 Apr 2010.
    <http://www.ncsl.org/issuesresearch/health/embryonicandfetalresearchlaws/tabid/14413/
    default.aspx
    >.

     

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