The Personhood Amendment: California here we come

Sen. Art Torres (Ret.) is vice-chair of the CIRM governing board. His biography is available here.

A ballot measure that defined a fertilized egg as a person failed to pass in Mississippi on Tuesday. The amendments passage would have restricted stem cell research, and the Washington Post reported on additional concerns caused by the measure:

Opponents say that measure could have criminalized birth control, affected in vitro fertilization practices and even forced doctors to decline to provide pregnant cancer patients with chemotherapy for fear of legal repercussions.

A substantially similar measure failed twice in Colorado by 2:1 margins.

The Mississippi and Colorado measures are a concern for the stem cell community because of their impact on patients, scientist and the public. By criminalizing the creation of embryonic stem cell lines, these laws restrict research in their home state and outside as well. For example, CIRM researchers have turned away donors residing in states with laws that criminalize the creation of stem cell lines from surplus IVF embryos. These restrictive laws frustrate prospective donors by limiting their options.

As Jonathan Moreno points out on Science Progress,

“the Mississippi movement will not be the last.”

In fact, a personho proposal has already been submitted in California. According the legislative analysis:

“this measure could restrict stem cell research and alter medical practices in both the public and private sector.”

CIRM plans to prepare an objective analysis of the effect on the proposed measure on stem cell research in the near future.

Art Torres

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