Plan for tighter limits on stem cell research fails


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. 

Bringing 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.

In 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, Nov 20

 





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