Hatch renews call for embryonic stem cell research

Supports stem cell research
Cheri Gunvalson, whose 14-year-old son has muscular dystrophy, joined DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch in calling for state investment in embryonic stem cell research.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

With President Bush on his way to Minnesota this week, DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch is trying to draw attention to embryonic stem cell research issue. Hatch has criticized the president for blocking legislation to increase federal funding for such research.

If elected governor, Hatch says he'll push for a $100 million state investment into stem cell research at the University of Minnesota.

Bush's first veto
Surrounded by "snowflake families," families that adopted frozen embryos, President George W. Bush spoke about stem cell research policy before vetoing a bill in July that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

"There is no reason for us to lose out with regard to stem cell research. We can move forward," says Hatch. "And you know we've got the footprint for it here, and we've got great expertise. We need an investment in it. And it's something that we've got all these corporations that can get involved in it. We can set the moral guidelines, and we can save people's lives."

Hatch and other supporters say stem cell research could produce cures for a broad range of diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and muscular dystrophy. Many opponents object to the use of human embryonic stem cells based on religious beliefs.

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Hatch was joined by Cheri Gunvalson, a nurse from Gonvick and the mother of a 14-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy. Gunvalson says stem cell research is the only hope her son Jacob has to rebuild his ravaged muscles.

"Scientists have had great success using stem cell research in rebuilding the muscles of a dog with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We can't throw roadblocks in the way of a cure," says Gunvalson.

We can't throw roadblocks in the way of a cure.

Gunvalson says she opposes abortion. She claims misinformation has been spread about stem cell research to convince abortion opponents to also oppose stem cell research. Some opponents of embryonic stem cell research say it leads to the destruction of human life.

Mike Hatch says stem cell research should never be a partisan issue. But that isn't stopping him from criticizing his main political rival, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Hatch says Pawlenty needs to separate himself from the president.

"He has dodged and avoided this issue. He keeps saying, 'Well, it's a federal issue.' It's not a federal issue. It's a state issue. We can advance this here," says Hatch. Pawlenty's campaign manager issued a brief statement in response to Hatch, saying the governor supports stem cell research but believes safeguards should be in place so that it is not misused.

A statement Pawlenty's campaign issued after Hatch's July 30 news conference said research should focus on adult cells or discarded umbilical cords.

Peter Hutchinson, the Independence Party's endorsed candidate for governor, says he supports embryonic stem cell research as part of his larger proposal to upgrade research at the University of Minnesota. Hutchinson says he's discouraged to see candidates playing politics with the issue.

"This is about creating division, because one side knows the other side will react, when what we need is a real focus on the future of the state, which is really about creating a sustainable research fund that the University of Minnesota can use to advance the economic security of our state," says Hutchinson.

Hutchinson's plan would cover research ranging from medicine to ethanol. He'd fund the endowment with a percentage from future state budget surpluses.