In the 10 years since University of Wisconsin scientists announced they had harvested potentially life-saving stem cells from human embryos, the bioethical dilemma presented by the science has stymied the federal government, split the GOP and has been debated in nearly every statehouse in the country.
Now, as the pace of new scientific discoveries in the field quickens, seven states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin — are leading the world in financial and political support for stem-cell research, and Massachusetts is poised to join them .
Three — Iowa, Massachusetts and Missouri — have made the research legal, but not offered state funding, while six — Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota — have taken the path of most developed countries and restricted the studies.
President Bush and other opponents argue that stem-cell research that results in the destruction of human embryos is immoral. Scientists, patients and their advocates seek the freedom and resources to conduct this embryonic research they say could cure diseases that affect millions of Americans.
With powerful forces on both sides, Washington has remained stalled.
“The lack of federal leadership leaves a vacuum that states are trying to fill on a very piecemeal basis,” said Michigan state Rep. Andy Meisner (D), who has to tried to repeal his state's ban on the research for the past four years.
Bush said in his State of the Union Address Jan. 28 that groundbreaking new stem-cell research in which ordinary skin cells could replace the use of human embryos “has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past.”
But far from resolving the moral quandary, last November's highly publicized breakthrough has escalated the discussion.
Read the full report States Take Sides in Stem Cell Debate on Stateline.org's Web site.