The second of only two state proposals on the ballot for November, Proposal 2 would add a constitutional amendment allowing embryonic stem cell research to the Michigan Constitution. The amendment would also prevent state and local regulation. The proposal is aimed at overturning a 1978 Michigan law that criminalizes the use of embryos for research and is one of the five most restrictive in the nation. The 30-year-old law has effectively discouraged life-science research in the state.
The proposal is controversial because it concerns the age-old debate regarding when life begins. Opponents, such as the Michigan Catholic Conference and Right-to-Life lobby, believe life begins at conception and, therefore, the use of embryos in research is morally wrong, especially where alternative sources exist for research. While recent advances toward manipulating adult stem cells and skin cells into an embryonic-type state have made great strides, however, obstacles still exist that limit their use.
The slippery slope argument regarding embryonic stem cell research is taken to an extreme by the main opponent to the proposal, Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science & Experimentation (MiCAUSE). The group argues that opening the door to embryonic stem cell research will ultimately lead to human cloning, animal/human hybrids and higher taxes, all consequences that fall outside of the actual language of Proposal 2. For instance, the “2 goes 2 far” television ads peppered on the air waves state that similar proposals in other states cost taxpayers shovels full of money. The ad is misleading because the states in question included state funding within their proposals while Michigan’s Proposal 2 does not.
Embryonic stem cell research is an area with huge potential for cures and treatment in the areas of Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and Parkinson’s. With the lifting of Michigan’s 20-year prohibition/criminalization of embryonic stem cell research, Michigan could benefit by scientists and life-science companies coming to the state.
Restrictions in the amendment address the moral concerns of the pro-life argument. For instance, only those embryos left over from fertility treatments and scheduled for destruction can be used and only those that were specifically donated by the patient. Additionally, the embryos can only be used within 14 days after cell division begins, and embryos cannot be bought or sold.
The proposal’s restriction on state/local regulation is perhaps the best objection to the proposal. While the proposal would only decriminalize stem cell research to the extent allowed by federal law, this controversial area of research may require a dynamic set of guidelines that evolve with the research. University ethic boards often serve this purpose, but they may not be sufficient and don’t address for-profit companies.
- CureMichigan.com outlines the arguments in support of Proposal 2.
- There are only subtle differences between Senators Obama and McCain in regard to embryonic stem cell research; they both support it.
- Election 2008 / The University of Michigan Documents Center
- Michigan Stem Cell Initiative 2008 / Ballotpedia.org
- Cures, jobs, ethics on the line in vote on stem cell research by Megha Satyanarayana / Detroit Free Press (9/24/08)