- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Democratic lawmakers have changed the word “embryo” to “material” in a bill for embryonic stem-cell research to secure the votes of Catholic senators who did not want to be viewed as supporting abortion-related legislation.

“They didn’t want to vote for a bill that had the language embryo in it,” said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, Baltimore County Democrat and the bill’s sponsor.

The bill, which appears certain of passage as early as today, calls for the state to spend $10 million for research on cells extracted from human embryos to create treatments for degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Changing the bill’s wording angered Republicans and conservative Democrats, who think that a human embryo is a human life and embryonic research is a form of abortion.

“I’m livid over that issue. Call it what it is,” said Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel County Democrat who is supporting a Republican-led filibuster of the bill.

“We’re offended by it,” said Nancy Fortier of the Maryland Catholic Conference. “It is a cheap attempt to disguise what they’re doing. Everybody knows it’s about killing human embryos.”

Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus yesterday said the Republican-led filibuster had lost its needed number of Democratic supporters to sustain it.

“It appears that one person we had early on with the filibuster is no longer with us. It appears we fall one short,” said Mr. Stoltzfus, Eastern Shore Republican.

Mr. Stoltzfus and other knowledgeable sources said Sen. Roy Dyson, Eastern Shore Democrat, is the swing vote for the filibuster.

Mr. Dyson, a practicing Catholic, likely will vote two or three times for the filibuster but then plans to break off and vote to end debate, sources said.

Mr. Stoltzfus had been confident Friday that the 14 Republicans in the 47-member Senate would be joined by at least five or six Democrats, giving them the 19 votes required to sustain a filibuster.

All six Democrats who supported the filibuster are practicing Catholics.

But Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat, decided to vote for the bill last week after amendments changed “embryo” to “material” and also provided the possibility of adult stem-cell research being funded.

Mr. Giannetti’s defection left Mr. Dyson as the swing vote. Mr. Dyson has been noncommittal on how he will vote.

“It’s kind of a shame that this kind of controversy is surrounding this,” Mr. Dyson said yesterday.

He did not say whether he thinks an embryo is a form of human life.

“We’re on the verge of some very significant and historic research, and I just hope that at some point we can come to terms with the controversy surrounding this. I’m very pro-life,” Mr. Dyson said.

Mrs. Hollinger’s bill, her No. 1 issue as she prepares for her U.S. Congress run this fall, would give priority to research that is “unlikely to receive timely or sufficient federal funding.”

President Bush in 2001 limited federal funds for stem-cell research on 60 existing lines of embryos, along with research on stem cells from adult cells and umbilical cord blood.

An embryo is a fertilized egg that has not been placed in a uterus.

Opponents of embryonic research say adult stem cells have yielded medical treatments for dozens of degenerative diseases. Proponents say there is incredible potential for cures from embryonic stem cells.

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