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Bill SB 253 authorizes the use of stem cells for research that will hopefully lead to new treatments to relieve or cure "chronic, degenerative, and acute diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease" which cause suffering to an estimated 128 million Americans. 1 Some religious conservatives oppose such research on ethical grounds because they personally regard pre-embryos to be human beings. Since the extraction of cells kills the pre-embryo, many conservative Christians regard such research as equivalent to murder. 1

The bill had been introduced by state Senator Deborah V. Ortiz, (D-Sacramento), and co-authored by Assembly Member Wayne. Governor Gray Davis signed the bill into law on 2002-SEP-20. Davis simultaneously signed a bill that permanently bans all human cloning in the state for reproduction purposes -- i.e. any effort to create a cloned individual. This is the first law in the U.S. that specifically authorizes research into the potential of stem cells for therapeutic purposes, whether extracted from adults or embryos. It takes effect on 2003-JAN-1.

The following is quoted from the California Senate web site, the contents of which we believe to be in the public domain. 1

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Legislative Counsel's Digest:

Under existing law, it is unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, sell, promote the transfer of, or otherwise transfer any human organ, for purposes of transplantation, for valuable consideration.

Under existing law, human tissue may be removed in certain circumstances from human remains for the use of the tissue by authorized donees, including, but not limited to, physicians, hospitals, and educational institutions, for transplant, therapeutic, or scientific purposes.

This bill would declare that the policy of the state shall be that research involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, and human adult stem cells from any source, including somatic cell nuclear transplantation, shall be permitted, as specified.  This bill would require a health care provider delivering fertility treatment to provide his or her patient with specified information.  The bill would authorize a donation of a human embryo pursuant to specific requirements and would prohibit the purchase or sale of embryonic or cadaveric fetal tissue for research purposes.

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Text of the law:

The People of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1.  The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
   (a) An estimated 128 million Americans suffer from the crippling economic and psychological burden of chronic, degenerative, and acute diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
   (b) The costs of treatment and lost productivity of chronic, degenerative, and acute diseases in the United States constitutes hundreds of billions of dollars every year.  Estimates of the economic costs of these diseases does not account for the extreme human loss and suffering associated with these conditions.
   (c) Stem cell research offers immense promise for developing new medical therapies for these debilitating diseases and a critical means to explore fundamental questions of biology.  Stem cell research could lead to unprecedented treatments and potential cures
for diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and other diseases.

(d) The United States and California have historically been a haven for open scientific inquiry and technological innovation and this environment, coupled with the commitment of public and private resources, has made the United States the preeminent world leader in
biomedicine and biotechnology.
   (e) California's biomedical industry is a critical component of the state's economy that provides employment in over 2,500 companies to over 225,000 Californians, pays $12.8 billion in wages and salaries, invests more than $2.1 billion in research, and reports nearly $7.8 billion in worldwide revenue, and would be significantly diminished by limitations imposed on stem cell research.
   (f) Open scientific inquiry and publicly funded research will be essential to realizing the promise of stem cell research and to maintain California's worldwide leadership in biomedicine and biotechnology.  Publicly funded stem cell research, conducted under established standards of open scientific exchange, peer review, and public oversight, offers the most efficient and responsible means of fulfilling the promise of stem cells to provide regenerative medical therapies.
   (g) Stem cell research, including the use of embryonic stem cells for medical research, raises significant ethical and policy concerns, and, while not unique, the ethical and policy concerns associated with stem cell research must be carefully considered.
   (h) Public policy on stem cell research must balance ethical and medical considerations.  The policy must be based on an understanding of the science associated with stem cell research and grounded on a thorough consideration of the ethical concerns regarding this research.  Public policy on stem cell research must be carefully crafted to ensure that researchers have the tools necessary to fulfill the promise of stem cell research.


Article 5 (commencing with Section 125115) is added to Chapter 1 of Part 5 of Division 106 of the Health and Safety Code, to read:

Article 5.  Stem Cell Research:


The policy of the State of California shall be as follows:
(a) That research involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, and human adult stem cells from any source, including somatic cell nuclear transplantation, shall be permitted and that full consideration of the ethical and medical implications of this research be given.
(b) That research involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, and human adult stem cells, including somatic cell nuclear transplantation, shall be reviewed by an approved institutional review board.


(a) A physician, surgeon, or other health care provider delivering fertility treatment shall provide his or her patient with timely, relevant, and appropriate information to allow the individual to make an informed and voluntary choice regarding the disposition of any human embryos remaining following the fertility treatment.
(b) Any individual to whom information is provided pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be presented with the option of storing any unused embryos, donating them to another individual, discarding the embryos, or donating the remaining embryos for research.
(c) Any individual who elects to donate embryos remaining after
fertility treatments for research shall provide written consent.


(a) A person may not knowingly, for valuable consideration, purchase or sell embryonic or cadaveric fetal tissue for research purposes pursuant to this chapter.
(b) For purposes of this section, "valuable consideration" does not include reasonable payment for the removal, processing, disposal, preservation, quality control, storage, transplantation, or implantation of a part.
(c) Embryonic or cadaveric fetal tissue may be donated for research purposes pursuant to this chapter.

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Reaction to the new law:

As expected, reaction to the law was split. Conservative Christians condemned Governor Davis' action:

Ken Connor, President of the Family Research Council wrote that Davis had put "profits and politics ahead of principle. Gov. Davis is simply pandering to the noisy, well-heeled biotech lobby and the pro-abortion crowd that spurns any recognition of the legal status of the unborn.  Such research on human embryos violates the Hippocratic injunction that physicians "First, do no harm."  It seeks to establish the utilitarian ethic that the ends justify the means and attempts to bypass President Bush's executive order limiting this research to specific cell lines. Doubtless some politicians are salivating over the economic windfall this decision could bring to the state--at the expense of innocent human life. 2

Meanwhile, posted an article by the Mercury News which said: "Scientists said the signing of the stem-cell research bill is a symbolic boost for the controversial research that could lead to breakthroughs in treatments of spinal-cord injuries and diseases including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. 'Stem-cell research is responsible research that could potentially save millions of lives,'' Davis said at a press conference featuring actor Christopher Reeve, who has championed the research since he was paralyzed in a horseback-riding accident. 'With world-class universities, top-flight researchers and a thriving biomedical industry, California is perfectly positioned to be a world leader in this area.' '' 3

State Senator Deborah V. Ortiz, who introduced the bill into the Senate said: "When we calculate the cost to our health care system and human suffering and pain, we understand the promise of the next level of treatment [that may come from stem-cell research]. I'm just hoping the rest of the country understands that where California is going is where they should also embark.'' She noted that the law conflicts with one of two therapeutic cloning/stem cell research bills now being considered in the Federal Senate. Whether a federal law would nullify the state law is unclear; it would probably have to be decided by the courts.

David Gollaher, CEO of the California Healthcare Institute, a biomedical industry group, is reported as saying that stem-cell research: "is the most promising area in human biomedical research today. What the governor has done is give a government seal of approval to something that is so important to millions of patients.''

Christopher Reeve, 4 a strong promoter of stem cell research because of its potential to cure paralysis said that: "The political debate has had a chilling effect on our scientists. It is painful to contemplate what advances could have been made.'' 3

Bioethicist Dr. Nigel Cameron condemned Davis' signing of the bill. He said: "We know that adult stem cells, which have no ethical problem, can do the job, as well. So [Davis' action] isn't necessary and is plainly a political gesture." Actually, stem cell researchers generally agree that adult stem cells are quite limited in their potential, when compared to cells derived from embryos. 5

Joni Eareckson Tada is a singer and host of the radio well-known Christian radio program "Joni and Friends." She was paralyzed as a result of a diving accident. Commenting on the possibility of stem cell research finding a cure for paralysis, she said: "I would never, ever want any benefit at the expense of another human being, and make no mistake, these embryos are human embryos....There are more important things in life than walking." 5,6

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  1. "Bill Number SB 235, Enrolled," at:
  2. Ken Connor, "California: Rebels with a Cause," Family Research Council, 2002-SEP-23, Washington Update news release.
  3. Barbara Feder Ostrov, "Davis signs nation's first stem-cell research bill," Mercury News, 2002-SEP-23, at:
  4. Christopher & Dana Reeve's Paralysis Resource Center has a web site at:
  5. Steve Jordahl, "Calif. Governor Signs Stem Cell Bill," at:
  6. An audio file is available at Joni Tada's web site in which she is interviewed about therapeutic cloning. See:

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 Home page > Morality > Stem Cell Research > here

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Copyright 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-SEP-24
Latest update: 2006-JUL-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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