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Efforts to stall stem cell bill end

March 09, 2006|By TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS - Nothing kills an afternoon like a filibuster, but all three Washington County senators were dismayed Wednesday when efforts to stall a bill to fund embryonic stem cell research ended before 5 p.m.

"I think it's sad, it really is," said Sen. John Hafer, R-Washington/Allegany/Garrett. "It's a major issue. Everybody has a different opinion."

The Senate likely will vote on the bill today.

Debate on the bill, which for the first time would allow state funding for stem cells from unused embryos donated from fertility treatments, lasted from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Washington/Frederick, put the debate in perspective when he noted an amendment that changed the phrase "human embryo" to "unused material."

"We all know it is human life. I think it's a shame that we dehumanize the 'human' in the embryo," he said. "It's experimenting with and taking human life."

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Mooney said he objected to "using taxpayer money to take human life."

There's no state law banning the research itself; the question before both houses of the legislature this year has been whether the state should spend public money on such research when many Marylanders have ethical problems with experimentation on embryonic stem cells. The House last week approved a bill providing state funding for either embryonic or stem cell research.

But opponents argued the bill was written to give embryonic research priority, and Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said the Senate bill does, too.

"There's still no question in my mind that it favors embryonic," he said. "That's not where the science is taking us." Munson had been studying the issue himself - he had a book on stem cell research on his desk during the debate - and concluded adult stem cell research held out more promise.

"I absolutely and totally support adult stem cell research," he said. "I think we're going to see good things come out of it." He didn't see that the money the state would be investing in embryonic stem cell research would accomplish much, he said.

Still, the senators expect the bill to be approved.

"They've got the votes," Hafer concluded.

Mooney said he was "very disappointed" that Sen. Roy Dyson, a pro-life Democrat who represents Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, had voted with other Democrats to end the filibuster. He predicted the final vote on the bill would be "maybe 30 to 18, 29 to 19."

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