TALLAHASSEE – The state would pay for stem cell research, including studies using cells harvested from embryos, under a bill filed Tuesday in the Florida Legislature that may have new hope because of backing from Gov. Charlie Crist.
The proposal has failed before, but its chances may be enhanced this year with the support of Crist, who said Tuesday the issue is one of his budget priorities.
"I think it’s important, and we talked about it during the campaign, because of the promise it has for maybe the curing … of many diseases and maladies that exist for a lot of our citizens," Crist said.
The bill (HB 555), filed by Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston, would require the state spend at least $20 million a year for 10 years on grants to researchers doing studies using several different types of stem cells, including adult stem cells, amniotic stem cells and embryonic stem cells, the most controversial type.
Researchers say embryonic stem cells hold the promise of medical breakthroughs because they have the ability to become any tissue in the body. But the research involves the destruction of frozen embryos created for in vitro fertilization, which stirs passionate debates over when life begins. Opponents say embryos are human beings, and it’s wrong to destroy them. Supporters counter that embryos that go unused by in vitro fertilization clinics are discarded anyway.
The idea was proposed last year in the Legislature, but failed to get a floor vote. Gov. Jeb Bush had opposed the bill, as had many Republicans.
Now the idea is personally supported by Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, but he insists he won’t push his chamber in any direction over the issue and expressed concern Tuesday that the "political" arguments over embryonic research threatened stem cell research in general.
Well I am not exactly surprised. I had about zero hopes that Crist would be as pro-life as his campaign touted him. I certainly miss Jeb Bush already.