Budget Rider Would Ban Stem Cell Research Funding

How many ways can you ban funding for something? Sen. Ogden seeks to find out.

The Senate budget bill debate begins Wednesday, and a 24-word provision added to it just recently has instantly upped its controversy factor.

The single sentence would effectively cut out other procedural nonsense and dispute over the messy topic of stem cell research by simply refusing to fund the practice.

The surpassingly straightfoward rider, created by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, simply states: "No funds appropriated under this act shall be used in conjunction with or to support research which involves the destruction of a human embryo."

It passed the Senate Finance Committee 6-5.

While most conservatives oppose the killing of embryos to obtain stem cells on the grounds that it destroys human life and obfuscates moral boundaries in science, those in favor look at the issue more in terms of jobs and money.

"Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said Ogden's rider would 'unquestionably' cause Texas to fall further behind other states in capturing biotech jobs," reports the Dallas Morning News.

The bill would effectively crush the hope many Texas scientists gained when President Barack Obama removed the band on federal financing of research on embryonic stem cells on March 9. However, attempts to free up federal funding might prove counterproductive because the issue has only become more pressing for conservatives across the country. Many states, such as Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota, have already banned the practice.

Additionally, though many argue that the legislation would diminish Texas' reputation in the scientific community, if the bill passes with rider intact, it might be worth Senate's exploring the possibility that Texas could become a leader in finding alternatives to embryonic cells and a haven for doctors with high ethical standards.

Though a clause with such sweeping implications likely won't pass as part of an otherwise nearly complete budget bill, Ogden and his supporters won't likely stop pushing the issue. He has another bill, SB 1695, that would ban funding for the practice on an even broader scale.

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