The legislation prohibits the sale or purchase of human eggs and would also require research facilities, including universities, to file annual reports listing how many human embryos they have stored and other data. The legislation also includes provisions for civil fines of up to $5,000 and would make some violations felonies punishable by up to a year in prison.
The bill passed in the Republican-led Senate by a 25-12 vote and will now move on to the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. it is thought that the measures, which are backed mainly by conservative Republicans and groups including the Michigan Catholic Conference are likely to die there. Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon said on Wednesday that the Senate measures 'appear to be political in nature' and ignore the will of the people.
However, supporters in the Senate said that new regulation is needed to clarify vague areas of Proposal 2, the constitutional amendment voters approved in 2008 that expands use of human embryos for any research permitted under federal law. Senator Tom George, lead sponsor of the legislation claims it 'clarifies the law, provides transparency in the research process, and enacts critical oversight provisions to protect this industry.'
The bills are opposed by Michigan universities and other proponents of embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research, which they say holds the promise of cures for many diseases, while boosting economic development in Michigan's burgeoning stem cell research industry.
Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute's Center for Stem Cell Biology criticised the legislation: 'You can't imagine the chilling effect this would have on stem cell research and how frustrating this is after the people have spoken that the legislature still has the ability to block main stream research.'
'People talk about diversifying the economy and having a more diverse science sector, as long as the state government is trying to send stem cell biologists to jail, we can't do that.'
Pro-life Republican Senator Bruce Patterson of Canton joined Democrats in opposing the package. He said he believes the bills are unconstitutional because the amendment approved by voters allows stem cell research within the same limits allowed by federal law.