Stem Cell Debate Divides NJ Gubernatorial Candidates

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

( - The issue of stem cell research has become the latest debate between the candidates running for governor of New Jersey.

While Democrat Jim McGreevey supports federal funding for the research, including the use of embryos, Conservative Republican Bret Schundler opposes embryonic research, supporting those who say the harvesting of these crucial cells destroys embryos, which they regard as human life.

McGreevey, who sits on the National Cancer Advisory Board, sent a letter to President Bush this week calling stem-cell research "the wave of the future in biomedical research."

The letter included that continued federal support for embryonic stem research, "is essential to translate this discovery into novel therapies for a range of serious and intractable diseases."

The letter, citing the potential to "advance in the history of medical science," puts him squarely at odds with a coalition of conservative interest groups, as well as his own Roman Catholic Church.

McGreevey initially sparked New Jersey's infusion into the stem cell debate with his letter, which was distributed to news outlets when the NIH released its report. Schundler immediately responded.

Schundler called on President Bush to increase funding for adult stem cell research, citing this research is important but should not involve the destruction of human embryos.

"There is no need for the federal government to fund other more controversial forms of medical research, like cloning and embryonic stem research, without first exhausting the promises of alternatives which do not raise any serious ethical concerns," he said.

Schundler notes that "Recent scientific studies have shown that adult stem cell research holds the most promise in finding new treatments and cures to some of mankind's most serious infirmities, including various forms of cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's."

He believes that with the proper resources, adult stem cell research can result in "great medical advances in my lifetime."

Richard McGrath, McGreevey's campaign spokesman, says Schundler's position is simply another example of his views "being outside the mainstream."

"Schundler is entitled to his position, but we hope that he is not sacrificing important public health issues due to an extremist ideology," McGrath said.

Grassroots groups in New Jersey, including the Christian Coalition of New Jersey and the New Jersey Right To Life support Schundler's stance on the issue.

The stem cell debate gained national attention nearly two months ago when actor Christopher Reeve and seven scientists filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Bush administration of illegally withholding funding for stem cell research.

The Bush administration is currently reviewing the matter.