ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A bill to allow embryonic stem-cell research in New Mexico has been turned back for the second time in two years.
“Life at its utmost vulnerable state has once again been successfully defended,” said a Feb. 22 news release from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
The measure, which was supported by Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, died in the House Judiciary Committee Feb. 14, the last day of the Legislature’s 30-day session for 2008. The 2007 bill also died in the committee, but opponents of the measure predicted it would be reintroduced next year.
It would have allowed the University of New Mexico to do research using embryos scheduled to be destroyed by fertility clinics. Currently, the university conducts research using adult stem cells.
The bill was passed by the Senate in a 20-18 vote Jan. 29. In the House it passed the Consumers and Public Affairs Committee only to be tabled during the final meeting of the Judiciary Committee. Tabling a bill means postponing discussion on it indefinitely, so it died when the legislative session ended.
The Santa Fe archdiocesan release said the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, “vigorously defended the consistent ethic of life and opposed” the measure.
“The proposed bill would have specifically granted the state the authority to take into its possession live human embryos, and the authority to decide when and how to terminate life,” it said.
“The proponents of the legislation argued that the targeted embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics would never become human life; therefore, it was acceptable to use them for stem-cell research,” it added.
The conference is made up of Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces; and Bishop Donald E. Pelotte of Gallup, who currently is on a medical leave of absence.
Archbishop Sheehan and Bishop Ramirez testified before the Senate Consumers and Public Affairs Committee reiterating the Catholic Church stance that embryos are human life.
One lawmaker who supported the bill said he considered it pro-life because the research using embryos could lead to cures for all manner of diseases, including multiple sclerosis and diabetes.
Allen Sanchez, executive director of the Catholic conference, told The Associated Press in January that the church objected to “giving our state the authority to take human life.”