Feb. 11, 2005
Massachusetts governor sets off a scientific brouhaha by opposing some stem cell research in his research-rich state.
Gov. Mitt Romney stunned much of the biosciences community in his state by telling the New York Times he opposed some stem cell research being proposed by Harvard and other research institutions. In fact, he wants to outlaw it. A law, proposed by the commonwealth Senate president Robert E. Travaglini, would permit research on cells derived from embryos, the most promising source—either left-overs from fertilization clinics or those specifically cloned for research. Cloning humans would be banned. The controversy is interesting for lots of reasons besides the obvious. Romney is the Republican governor of the bluest of all states and may have national ambitions—note the interview was with the Times, not the Boston Globe, which did not amuse the Globe people, especially since the Times owns the Globe. While he infuriated those in favor of stem cell research, he also managed to piss off the anti-abortion crowd who opposes all such research. His wife suffers from multiple sclerosis and could benefit from the research. Since the California referendum funding this research, other states with concentrations of researchers are panicked that their best scientists will head west. And finally, Romney is a Mormon in a heavily Catholic state and the attitude of the Mormon Church to stem cells may be involved. There’s no way you could do a short story on this.