Eye On Olympia

FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2005, 1:24 P.M.

Senate flares over stem-cell research…

The state Senate -- which, like most senates, has the reputation of being the cooler-headed "more deliberative" chamber -- nonetheless turned quite hot on Friday morning when the topic turned to embryonic stem cell research. Below is an abbreviated version of the floor debate.

The bill -- EHB 1268 -- sets ethical guidelines for stem-cell research, but does not allow creation of embryos for such research. The embryos come from leftover fertilized eggs donated for research by couples undergoing fertility treatments. Stem-cell research, proponents say, holds great promise for the treatment of many diseases, including Alzheimer's.

The opening salvo came from Sen. Alex Deccio, R-Yakima, who said that as a soldier in World War II he went to the newly-liberated Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp. There, he said, he saw emaciated Jews, dead and dying.

"They were embryos at one point, but somebody decided those people should be done away with," he said. "It was government...We're talking about the same thing."

No, said Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle.

"This is a far cry from the Holocaust," said Kline, who is Jewish. "I personally have a difficult time accepting any kind of political rhetoric that attempts to draw moral equivalency between science and murder."

"This is about babies," responded Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington. "We are talking about what goes on in creation."

"These efforts may help relieve human suffering, may keep someone's father or grandfather alive," said Senate Majority Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. She noted that she was born and raised Catholic, and said the social teachings of the church inspire her every day.
"I find no contradiction between those essential values of wanting to reduce human suffering and advance --"

She was cut off in mid-sentence as fellow Catholic Sen. Joyce Mulliken, furious, jumped up.

"I am truly offended," Mulliken said. "Please, please do not say there is no conflict with the beloved Catholic Church. The Holy Father does not teach --"

Mulliken was cut off by Senate President Brad Owen, who let Brown continue.

Brown apologized and said she was stating that there's no conflict with her own values, not commenting on the official position of the Catholic Church.

"I was simply trying to point to some of my personal motivation," she said. "This bill is consistent with the idea of alleviating human suffering."

Republicans tried unsuccessfully to defer the bill indefinitely, but lost the vote, which indicates that the bill has enough votes to pass.

But to cool things off, both sides agreed Friday morning to temporarily defer action on the bill.

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