Stem cell research opponents lose first court test but will try again | St. Louis Public Radio

Stem cell research opponents lose first court test but will try again

Jul 3, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 3, 2008 - A Missouri judge refused on Wednesday to stop the state from spending $21 million for life sciences research.  Opponents of stem cell research -- represented by Ed Martin, the former chief of staff to Gov. Matt Blunt -- had sought an emergency order to block the spending.

A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 1. Then the Missouri Roundtable for Life Inc., the group opposing stem cell research, will have a chance to argue that state money for life sciences research cannot be spent on stem cell research.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures - the organization that supported passage of the 2006 Stem Cell Initiative protecting stem cell research - said that Martin was "inventing a controversy." None of the $21 million at issue is earmarked for stem cell research, the spokesman said.  

Martin's lawusit argued that two legal provisions bar the use of the money on stem cell research. One is a provision of the 2003 law setting up the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund.  The provision prohibited the use of the money on "abortion services, human cloning or prohibited human research." Prohibited human research was defined as the taking of "organs, tissues or cellular material" from a deceased or living child. Child is defined to include an an "unborn child from conception or inception onward." Martin says that bars stem cell research.

The second legal provision that Martin pointed to is contained in the 2008 legislation appropriating $21 million for life science research. That law -- HB 2007 -- states that "these funds shall be used exclusively on animal science, plant science, medical devices, biomaterials and composite research, diagnostics, nanotechnology related to drug development and delivery, clinical imaging, and information technology related to human health." Again, Martin argues that this excludes stem cell research.

Martin claims that Donn Rubin - chairman of the Missouri Technology Corporation and also leader of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures - has said that the 2006 Stem Cell Initiative trumped funding restrictions in the 2003 law setting up the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund.  Martin maintains that Rubin's role as head of the Missouri Technology Corporation is relevant because the Life Sciences Board has delegated responsibilities to the corporation.

Rubin disagrees. He says that the Missouri Technology Corporation is providing only administrative help to the Life Sciences Board and has nothing to do with deciding who receives state life sciences money. In any event, none of the $21 million is to be spent on stem cell research.

Constitutional amendments prevail over conflicting laws. But Martin argued that the funding restrictions on the life sciences money are "mandatory" restrictions that must be followed if any money is to be spent. He noted that the 2003 law setting up the life sciences fund included a provision stating that any appropriation under the law would be invalid "if any provision of this section is found to be invalid or unconstitutional."

So, if the funding restrictions were found to violate the 2006 stem cell amendment, then any appropriation is invalid, Martin argued.

The stem cell initiative passed by the voters does not require the state to fund stem cell research. But it states that laws should be interpreted to favor stem cell research and that no state law should discourage stem cell research.

In the hearing on Wednesday in Cole County, the attorney for the state stressed that none of the funded research would involve "abortion services or human research." Therefore none violates the funding restrictions, the state argued.

Cole County Judge Jon Beetem denied Martin's request for a temporary restraining order to block the state from spending the money.; Missouri Roundtable for Life will continue to seek a permanent injunction to block funding for the Life Sciences Research Board at a hearing Aug. 1 before Cole County Judge Richard Callahan.

Martin was forced out as Blunt's chief aide last fall amidst a controversy about emails. Blunt supported the constitutional amendment protecting stem cell research.  Martin was involved in anti-abortion activism long before he entered the governor's office.

The Life Sciences Trust Fund spends one-fourth of the money that Missouri receives as part of the tobacco settlement between the states and the big cigarette companies.

A lawyer for state Treasurer Sarah Steelman said she saw no harm in temporarily blocking the funding because no grants are about to be awarded, the AP reported.  She opposes state funding for embryonic stem cell research.


Missouri Roundtable for Life suit:

Funding restrictions in 2003 law:

HB 2007 funding Life Sciences

Text of 2006 stem cell initiative:

KWMU story on judge's action Wednesday:

Missouri Life Sciences Research Board:

Missouri Roundtable for Life

Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures: