When Californians cast their votes this November,
they will be asked to decide the fate of Proposition 71, the $3
billion California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act.
Most reports have presented the story as a two-sided
conflict: on the one side, biotech researchers and patient advocates
seeking cures for a range of diseases; on the other, religious conservatives
opposed to the destruction of human embryos.
But in fact there are three distinct political positions
on Proposition 71. Many progressive, liberal, and pro-choice groups
and individuals who support increased federal funding for embryonic
stem cell research nonetheless have deep concerns about Proposition
71. They argue that the measure
- fails to provide public accountability for a
very large public investment,
- fails to adequately regulate techniques that
pose unique risks,
- grants the biotechnology industry a privileged
role in public policy decisions,
- burdens Californians with added debt when the
state's deficit already threatens social programs, and
- could undermine health equity and women's health.
Proposition 71 backers – supported by the biotechnology
industry, Silicon valley billionaires and Hollywood celebrities
– have amassed a war chest of $15 million for a campaign featuring
television ads appealing to the compassionate desires of California
voters to assist those suffering from disease. Proposition 71 will
have profound implications for the politics of human genetic technologies
far beyond California’s borders.
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