California has adopted a new law permitting scientific research on embryonic stem cells, despite rejection of the use of federal funds for the same type of research by President Bush. The Senate is still considering legislation that would ban this type of research completely. Along with recent legislation regarding the use of medical marijuana, the new law brings up the question of what will happen when state and federal laws clash. The last time this happened in a major way, we fought the Civil War.

California Governor Gray Davis says the new law will bring top scientists to California. “As the country ages, I believe more and more Americans will see the value stem cell research has in enhancing quality of the lives of the people they love,” he said after signing the bill. Since stem cell research can benefit the diseases that affect aging Americans, such as Parkinson?s, Alzheimer?s and diabetes, this type of law is likely to be popular in states with older populations.

This type of research may be especially helpful for victims of spinal cord injuries. Paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve, who pushed for the new law, says, “Since stem cells were first isolated in 1998, the political debate has had a chilling affect on our scientists. It is painful to contemplate what advances could have been made.”

The bill, which explicitly allows embryonic stem cell research and will enable embryos to be both donated and destroyed, will become law on January 1st, 2003. The bill requires clinics that do in-vitro fertilization procedures to tell women they can give written consent to donate discarded embryos to research. It also bans the sale of embryos.

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