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Gov. Brad Henry's stem cell veto stirs new fight

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry says he'll veto bill restricting embryonic stem cell research.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: April 23, 2009 at 8:51 am •  Published: April 23, 2009

/> Henry said he’s prepared to fight any override attempts.

"This is a critical issue for the future of this state, and I think it is important that any veto override attempt occur in the light of day so all Oklahomans can see their lawmakers at work,” Henry said.

Democratic House leader Danny Morgan said the governor called Democratic and Republican House members Wednesday asking them to sustain his veto.

"You’ll see a lot of Democrats who will be voting to sustain the governor’s veto,” said Morgan, of Prague. He said he would switch his position to support the governor.

Veto endorsement
Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, an emergency room doctor and the only House GOP member to vote against the bill, endorsed the governor’s veto.

"It is unfortunate that this bill mistakenly was profiled by some as a right-to-life bill,” Cox said. "What we are really talking about is cellular biology. ... To prohibit research before we learn if embryonic stem cells can help where adult stem cells can’t seems foolish.”

Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans for Life, said he was disappointed with the governor’s decision. A key part of the bill would have prohibited the creation of human embryos through cloning for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells, he said.

"A fundamental principle of medical ethics is to not experiment on a human subject without the informed consent of that human subject,” Lauinger said. "This veto violates that principle.”

Medical researchers and state business leaders worked in recent days to explain what is involved with embryonic stem cell research. Scientists believe such research could yield new treatments or cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, blindness, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, spinal cord injuries and a variety of other ailments.

State business and research leaders also warned that by criminalizing legitimate scientific study, HB 1326 would have an adverse effect on Oklahoma’s research community. The measure also would have discouraged research-based industries from locating in Oklahoma, dealing a major blow to long-running efforts to make the state a center of bioscience and high-technology research, opponents of the bill said.