Pawlenty threatens veto on cell research; says gay marriage amendment lacking votes

ST. PAUL (AP) - Stem cell research legislation that doesn't explicitly restrict the use of embryonic cells would face a gubernatorial veto, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Monday, two days before state legislators delve into the issue.

ST. PAUL (AP) - Stem cell research legislation that doesn't explicitly restrict the use of embryonic cells would face a gubernatorial veto, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Monday, two days before state legislators delve into the issue.

"We should be for certain types of stem cell research," Pawlenty told a gathering of the Minnesota Family Council, adding later, "I do not support wide-open embryonic stem cell research."

He said he'd back state-supported research using discarded umbilical cords, adult cell lines or an emerging method of extracting cells from embryos without damaging them. He also lent support to research on cell lines beyond those restricted by a federal order as long as the embryo is no longer capable of producing human life.

Pawlenty's multilayered stance reflects his attempt to balance moral concerns about the research with the cutting-edge science that could produce cures for debilitating diseases. But his conditions, which he first laid out during his re-election campaign, could trip up legislation providing state money toward the research.

Researchers are studying how to turn embryonic stem cells into other cells they can use to repair damaged organs or cure diseases like multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer's. A scarcity of available embryonic stem cells has limited research.


Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, is sponsoring a bill that would commit an unspecified amount of money toward state-level research, including on stem cells derived from unused, donated embryos.

Cohen said he doesn't anticipate lawmakers tailoring a bill around Pawlenty's restrictions.

"When politicians start interfering with this stuff for ideological purposes they're not furthering the true research," Cohen said.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said she's having a hard time grasping the ground rules Pawlenty is placing on the research. Like Cohen, she is uncomfortable placing too many restrictions on the research for fear of stifling it.

"He's going in the same false direction with the idea that you put restrictions on it that have no ethical background behind it," Kahn said.

Kahn's bill is due for its first hearing on Wednesday. The House, which until this year was controlled by Pawlenty's fellow Republicans, hasn't had as much discussion about stem cell research as the Senate. Past measures have advanced through Senate committees but never received a full floor vote.

Kahn argues that her bill offers safeguards, including a review panel to look into medical and ethical implications of research. Patients undergoing fertility treatment would have to affirmatively consent before their unused embryos to go for research.

The position Pawlenty outlined in the campaign put him on the same page as Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the state's largest anti-abortion organization.


Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, said the group is more in tune with Pawlenty on the state-aided research than legislative Democrats. But Prichard said any embryonic experiments, even under the conditions Pawlenty described, make him uncomfortable.

"It can become a moving line that people can change in the future and expand the number of lines," Prichard said. "There are lots of other vehicles out there and the adult stem cells is where the successes have been."

Pawlenty's fall opponent, Democrat Mike Hatch, suggested appropriating $10 million a year for a decade to the research.

Other states are further along in the debate.

In December, New Jersey officials announced plans to devote $7 million this year to federally restricted embryonic stem cell research and $3 million for less controversial research into adult stem cells.

Last week, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, indicated he would recommend $20 million for a grant program to pay for studies that abide by restrictions along the lines of what Pawlenty has discussed.

California, Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland are also providing money of their own to get around the federal restrictions.

Pawlenty used the speech to the council to reaffirm his support for socially conservative measures the group has pursued. But he gave a blunt assessment of the changed environment for causes like the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage.


"It may be awhile," Pawlenty said of the bill putting the marriage question to voters. "The votes aren't there this year to do it."

What To Read Next
Get Local


Local Sports and News