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Student Senate passes stem cell resolution
Josh Moody
Antelope Staff

Ongoing controversy continues to surround guidelines for stem cell research.

On March 9, 2009, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13505, lifting certain restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and establishing new federal guidelines. As a result, this has led to an expansion in embryonic stem cell research, an issue that riles both sides.

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents had previously chosen to follow the federal guidelines laid out by former President George W. Bush. Now, with new federal guidelines established under President Obama, the NU Board of Regents must decide where they stand on the politically radioactive issue of embryonic stem cell research.

On one hand, the University of Nebraska system looks to benefit from federal funding with the adoption of these new guidelines. On the other hand, board members must consider adopting these guidelines in spite of some degree of political opposition from their constituents in typically-conservative Nebraska.

While the Board of Regents will ultimately make the decision, the Student Senate at UNK has already taken the first step toward supporting the new federal guidelines.

Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Student Senate passed Senate Resolution 2009-12, sponsored by the Government Affairs Committee.

The resolution calls for the adherence to the new federal guidelines and passed with a vote of 15-0.

“Basically what the resolution did was state that the UNK student body as a whole supports the expansion of the practice of embryonic stem cell research,” said Senate Speaker Jordan Gonzales, a junior from Morrill majoring in political science.

Gonzales said that the NU Board of Regents vote on Nov. 20 would affect UNMC most, but adoption of the expanded federal guidelines would have an impact on the entire University of Nebraska system. “The senate here at UNK has done its part, we just have to wait now,” said Gonzales.

While state universities are pressing for the adoption of these expanded federal guidelines, conservative groups such as Nebraska Right to Life have met the movement with some resistance. Julie Schmit-Albin, Executive Director of Nebraska Right to Life referred to the expansion of embryonic stem cell research as unethical and likened it to “cannibalizing aborted babies for research.”

Schmit-Albin also pointed out that five of the eight voting members elected to the Board of Regents are pro-life. “They courted the pro-life vote and we endorsed them,” said Schmit-Albin. “Nebraska is a predominantly conservative state, the political climate in Nebraska is not very welcoming of research using the by-products of abortion.”

UNK student body President Cade Craig, a senior from Minden majoring in Health Science offered a contrasting perspective to explain his support of embryonic stem cell research. “Basically the way the new guidelines are set up, there’s no way they can obtain the stem cells unless they’re by the process of in vitro fertilization. In vitro fertilization is a process used to make babies for women who can’t have babies; more cells are created when they do it in a test tube manner. They make more cells than can actually be used in the mother. The cells that they’re using for stem cell research are those cells that are created and aren’t used. The cells are being wasted if they aren’t being used,” said Craig.

“No cells can be created specifically for stem cell research, as far as people conceiving specifically for the purpose of doing stem cell research that’s still not allowed,” Craig said. “Under stem cell research you can’t take stem cells from aborted babies and use that. The in vitro fertilization process is the only way they can get stem cells, that’s the only way the guidelines are opened up.”

Craig expressed optimism about the possibilities for embryonic stem cell research. “We’re going to be able to do research in Nebraska that could help change peoples lives in the future and that’s the most important thing to me,” Craig said.

Schmit-Albin believes that the potential of stem cell research to possibly cure disease could negatively affect the medical community by creating demand for more stem cells. “Once the supply of IVF embryos are gone they’ll need more for research and they’ll turn to paying women for their eggs.”

“I think that embryonic stem cell research is almost a taboo phrase in our society,” said Craig. “Everybody automatically equates that with abortion, when that’s not the case here. There are a lot of positives to this method because those in vitro cells are not being used and instead of wasting them we’re giving researchers the chance to cure hundreds of diseases.”



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