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Stem Cell Action Coalition Opposes Virginia Personhood Bill

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Stem Cell Action Coalition opposes Virginia House Bill No.1, the so-called Virginia "personhood bill." The Virginia Senate Committee on Education and Health is scheduled to take the matter up this week.

The language of the personhood bill states, in part, that the laws of Virginia "shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of unborn children at every stage of development all of the rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents." The bill further states "unborn children shall include the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development."

HB 1 arguably would apply to every aspect of Virginia law thus profoundly impacting inheritance, adoption, guardianship, civil and criminal liability by according the same rights as adults and children to a single cell.

The personhood bill would surely interfere with reproductive and related rights of women and couples along several fronts.  These interferences include making it exceedingly difficult for couples in Virginia to seek in vitro fertilization as a means of creating families and donating for research IVF-created embryos not needed for implantation or not sufficiently healthy for implantation.  Moreover, the law would prevent the pursuit of medical research in Virginia that utilizes human embryonic stem cells.

In this twisted new world, Virginia researchers deriving embryonic stem cells from donated embryos might be charged with capital crimes, even murder. Couples donating embryos to research might be designated as accessories to these crimes. Microscopic embryos, consisting of a few cells in lab dishes or frozen in IVF clinics might be designated as wards of the state and by mandate have legal guardians appointed on their behalf.

Human embryonic stem cell research has been described by scientists as the "gold standard" for those seeking to develop cures based on stem cell technology for many diseases and maladies such as Parkinson's, ALS, diabetes, MS, macular degeneration and other causes of blindness, spinal cord injuries, and other medical conditions for which there is no known cure.

Bernard Siegel, J.D., spokesperson for the Coalition and executive director of the Genetics Policy Institute commented, "It is a sad day indeed when the Commonwealth of Virginia should become an outpost for extremism by impeding potentially lifesaving scientific research. Thomas Jefferson would be appalled.  The wise voters of Colorado (twice) and Mississippi overwhelmingly rejected personhood amendments to their state constitutions.

The profound implications of the personhood bill cannot be wished away by its sponsors. Passage of this bill would be an affront to couples trying to avail themselves of modern infertility treatments, stem cell researchers targeting cures and to all Virginians suffering from chronic and life threatening disease. Passage of HB 1 is akin to crushing hope.

Human embryonic stem cell research holds the promise of discovering the root causes of disease, serves as a tool for drug discovery, and will surely lead to regenerative medicines and cell therapies for repairing or replacing damaged tissues and organs.

Microscopic cells in a lab dish, that by a couples' decision, will never be implanted in a womb, should not be defined as 'people'," Siegel continued.

HB 1 represents a concerted move by opponents of all forms of early termination of pregnancy and medical research involving human embryos to attempt to pass laws to define "person" as the being that comes into existence at conception.  In addition to Virginia, similar efforts to pass "personhood" legislation are underway in Oklahoma, Mississippi and in other states.

The Stem Cell Action Coalition has 75 nonprofit affiliated organizations including patient groups, medical philanthropies, scientific and medical societies and public interest organizations all dedicated to advancing scientifically meritorious and ethically responsible research.

The Stem Cell Action Coalition serves as an engine to unite the pro-cures community. It recognizes that human embryonic stem cell research must be a national public health priority at all branches and levels of government, not only as a matter of the medical health of the individuals who comprise the United States, but also as a matter of national financial health. The Coalition sponsors a web site and can be found on Twitter @StemCellAction and on Facebook at

SOURCE The Stem Cell Action Coalition
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