3/8/07 Stem cell research proponents gather at Capitol to lobby
House will consider bill legitimizing controversial practice

By Christopher Crawford
  • thispageresult; } Media Credit: Jon Lucas
Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, co-author of legislation supporting stem cell research, starts a round of applause for other supporters of the bill on Wednesday afternoon on the steps of the Capitol.

Activists, legislators and religious leaders met on the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday to promote legislation aimed at protecting the legality of embryonic stem cell research by setting ethical guidelines for the practice.

House Bill 2704, bipartisan legislation filed on March 6, already has the support of 64 House members, according to Texans for the Advancement of Medical Research, an organization supporting of the bill.

Supporters of embryonic stem cell research stress the potential of embryonic stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease, diabetes and spinal cord injuries. Opponents believe that using embryonic stem cells involves the destruction of unborn human life and point to the potential of adult stem cells to achieve significant advances in medicine without taking human life.

According to the National Institutes of Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body, such as muscle cells, red blood cells or brain cells. Regenerative medicine is not limited to embryonic stem cell research. Adult stem cells extracted from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and fat cells could also achieve significant medical advances.

Cheryl Travis, an advocate for Texans for the Advancement of Medical Research and member of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said the bill will advance and protect research using stem cells within a framework of ethical oversight by both public and private institutions.

The bill will also ban human cloning, placing a penalty of first-degree felony criminal charges and civil penalties of up to $10 million for each violation.