California Voters to Decide on Stem Cell Funding

On November 2, California will vote on Proposition 71, a ballot initiative that, if passed, would provide $3 billion over the next decade to fund embryonic stem cell research. The initiative could make California a world leader in the field, especially in light of President Bush’s decision in 2001 to limit federal funding of stem cell research to existing cell lines, which scientists estimate to be only about five to 10 lines. Research on embryonic stem cells could hold the key to cures for such degenerative diseases as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes, as well as spinal cord injuries, cancer, and heart disease. Scientists believe that treatments using stem cells on people with spinal cord injuries are only a year-and-a-half away, and that clinical trials using stem cell research for heart failure and diabetes are only a few years away, according to the New Yorker. “[Prop 71] allows us to do the fundamental work that is needed in an exciting area of science,” said Susan Fisher, who works with stem cells at the University of California, San Francisco, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Although nationally 70 percent support stem cell research, a Los Angeles Times poll released last week found that only 53 percent of those surveyed planned to vote for Proposition 71, compared to 34 percent who planned to vote against the measure and 13 percent who were undecided. One major concern in the state is the cost of the initiative, which, including interest, is $6 billion, although repayments do not begin until five years after the measure passes. Supporters of the measure argue that the revenues that will be generated by patents, royalties, and licenses fees of the new treatments created by this research would go a long way toward paying back the state’s $6 billion investment, according to the New Yorker. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) finally came out for the initiative last week. This position places him at odds with the Republican Party on this issue in the state and nationally, according to the Los Angeles Times. The late actor and stem cell research supporter Christopher Reeve also endorsed the measure and appeared in campaign advertisements urging Californians to vote Yes for Proposition 71. The lead lobbying group against Proposition 71 is organized by the Catholic Conference, according to the New Yorker. JOIN the Feminist Majority


Los Angeles Times 10/19/04, 10/20/04; New Yorker 10/18/04; Christian Science Monitor 10/25/04; Washington Post 10/25/04

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