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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
January 11, 2002 Issue

Stem cell hearing scheduled

Wisconsin Catholic Conference also plans a forum before the hearing
to explore the issue

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference has hailed a planned hearing Jan. 25 by the Assembly Health Committee on two legislative proposals designed to protect human embryos from destructive research and prohibit human cloning in Wisconsin.

"Wisconsin is touting itself as a leader in embryonic stem cell research and this research as indispensable to curing disease and saving lives," said John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. "We believe that the hearings will reveal that there are viable alternatives."

Prior to the hearing, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and Wisconsin Right to Life will co-sponsor a forum Jan. 24 featuring leading experts in the ethics and science of stem cell technology.

"Given Wisconsin's high profile in the area of embryonic stem cell research, it is even more critical that we educate ourselves about the ethical implications of current activities, turn away from practices that destroy human life and prevent the introduction of human cloning," Huebscher said.

At the hearing, the committee will hear testimony on the "Human Embryo Protection Act," sponsored by Rep. Steve Freese and Sen. Mary Lazich; and Assembly Bill 699 authored by Rep. Steve Kestell.

The "Human Embryo Protection Act" would regulate both current embryonic research activities in Wisconsin and guard against any future attempts to engage in human cloning. It would prohibit the creation, destruction, sale or transfer of human embryos for research purposes.

The "Human Embryo Protection Act" also proposes creating a study committee to examine promotion of adoption as an option for "excess" embryos created through in-vitro fertilization efforts.

AB 699 focuses solely on human cloning, which it would completely prohibit. The bill does not distinguish between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning.

"Scientists make an extremely valuable contribution to society. But so do religion and philosophy and government and they all have something to contribute to this discussion," Huebscher said. "In the past, society has set limits on research and determined that certain experiments and methods should not be permitted. We believe that research dependent upon the destruction of human life or the creation of life through illicit means should be off limits."

"This is a tremendous opportunity for our Legislature to truly commit Wisconsin to leadership in the arena of biotechnology by advancing ethical standards that respect the dignity of all human life," Huebscher said.

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