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Embryonic stem cell research bill clears House, faces veto

Eds: UPDATES with Pawlenty spokesman saying governor would veto bill, quotes, background. ADDS byline.

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By MARTIGA LOHN

Associated Press Writer

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ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota House voted Wednesday to loosen funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research at the University of Minnesota, in a split that largely mirrored abortion politics.

The 71-62 vote prompted a renewed veto threat from Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s spokesman, Brian McClung. All 201 legislators got a letter from the governor in February outlining his opposition to the bill and emphasizing the promise of a new vein of research using adult stem cells.

Social conservatives oppose embryonic stem cell research because the embryos are usually destroyed to extract the cells.

Supporters say unrestricted stem cell research could lead to new treatments or even cures for diseases ranging from Parkinson’s to spinal cord injuries. That’s because stem cells can develop into all kinds of more specialized cells, creating the possibility of making new tissues for therapies.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn said her bill would support research on embryos created through in vitro fertilization and donated by couples who would otherwise discard them.

"Not one embryo that is destined for life would ever be used for embryonic stem cell research," said Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis.

The bill drew opposition from Republicans who echoed Pawlenty’s optimism about adult stem cell research and raised moral concerns about destroying embryos.

"Would we take an individual that is sentenced to life imprisonment, would we start cutting them up for research?" asked Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano. "No. And you might think that’s a little over-the-top, but it’s the same thing for some of us."

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The House split even more narrowly — 65-69 — in rejecting an amendment that would have allowed state money to go to stem cell research as long as no embryos were destroyed.

"That’s where the moral line is drawn that shouldn’t be crossed," said Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood.

Another version of the bill passed the DFL-controlled Senate last year.

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