US battles over human embryo research have been
fought in state legislatures and in referendums. Now a few front may be
opening up: the governing boards of universities. This week the board
of regents of the University of Nebraska split 4-4 over a proposal to
confine stem cell
research to the stem cell lines approved under former President George
W Bush. A
five-vote majority was required to pass the proposed restrictions.
politics to the governing board of a university is a strategy which may
be unfamiliar to non-Americans, but in Nebraska, at least, the board of
regents is popularly elected. Since universities are the places where
stem cell research is carried out, opponents saw an opportunity.
According to the New York Times, "For weeks, the Nebraska board of regents has been the focus of a fierce
campaign by opponents of embryonic stem cell research, most recently by
a flood of e-mail and telephone calls, a petition drive and radio
advertisements." The showdown was closely followed by both sides of the stem cell debate.
the end, it came down to a single vote. One regent, Jim McClurg, who
had once been endorsed by Nebraska Right-To-Life, backed the status
quo. The losing side was philosophical. “Pro-lifers are a resilient
bunch,” said Julie Schmit-Albin, of Nebraska Right to Life. “We’re in
this for the long haul.
We’ll regroup and take a look at it and decide where to go.” ~New York
Times, Nov 19; New York Times, Nov 20; Nature,