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Minnesota Catholic Church wants ban on stem cell research funding in budget deal

The policy wing of the Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota is asking its members to urge Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders to include a ban on somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) — which it inaccurately calls “human cloning” — in the budget framework currently being worked out. Pressure from the Minnesota Catholic Conference to include the controversial ban follows an agreement by Dayton and Republican leaders to leave social issues out of the bill that would end Minnesota’s government shutdown, which is in its third week. Despite the church’s pressure campaign, no state-funded entities in Minnesota have conducted the research.

SCNT involves the creation of a blastocyst using a patient’s own cells and then creating stem cells that wont be rejected by the patient during a transplant. Anti-abortion activists call the process human cloning.

Republicans offered the ban in the higher education bill, vetoed by Dayton, that would prevent the University of Minnesota from conducting such research if it takes state funds. Another ban was included in a health and human services bill that would have criminalized the research — and possibly make criminals of patients from others states who benefit from the research.

Much of the debate over SCNT involves the use of the term “human cloning.” SCNT would not allow researchers to grow an entire new human being, known as reproductive cloning. It allows researchers to clone a patient’s stem cells, a process called therapeutic cloning.

In a message that MCC is urging its members to send to legislators, the group does not make that distinction:

A recent International Communications Research poll showed that 75% of Americans strongly oppose human cloning for any reason. And the United Nations has recommended its member nations ban the practice of human cloning. With this much opposition, I am asking you to again include a ban on human cloning funding in the Higher Education omnibus bill. Please, don’t use my tax dollars on such a controversial issue; one that I believe is immoral!

In an email to its membership, MCC reiterated the cloning language:

In the heated budget debates going on at the Capitol, a ban on the use of State funds for human cloning research is at risk. Pro-life lawmakers added a ban on the taxpayer funding of human cloning to the original Higher Education omnibus bill, but it was vetoed by Governor Dayton. It is now uncertain whether the funding ban will remain in place in the compromise budget bill being drafted right now.

The funding ban prevents Minnesotans’ tax dollars from funding research in human cloning, a practice that is unethical, immoral and wrong. The Legislature passed a similar ban in 2009, but it must be reauthorized every two years. This human cloning funding ban would permanently prevent state taxpayer funds from being used to clone human beings. If not renewed, it would be the first time in Minnesota history that a pro-life law has been reversed by the Legislature and Governor.

We at the Minnesota Catholic Conference are asking you to contact your legislators and tell them not to put the taxpayer’s money into the funding of human cloning! In today’s tough times, it is an easy choice to tell your legislator that our tax dollars should be helping, not hindering, humanity in our state. Click the link below to take action now!

Despite the assertion that money would go into such research if the ban is not included in the budget negotiations, the University of Minnesota says it does not engage in SCNT and hasn’t made plans to in the future. No institution in Minnesota or the United States is attempting to clone an entire human being through reproductive cloning. Most countries that have outlawed reproductive cloning have also allowed the less controversial stem cell cloning to continue.

The issue arises as anti-abortion groups press for abortion bans in the budget negotiations and urge legislators to extend the shutdown if the bans are not included.

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