Mass. Governor Sends Back Stem-Cell Bill

Gov. Mitt Romney (search) is refusing to sign a recently approved stem cell bill unless lawmakers amend it to ban cloning for research, a practice he describes as ethically wrong.

Romney also wants the bill to include sanctions — up to five to 10 years in jail — for anyone who violates the ban on "therapeutic cloning." The bill already bars cloning for reproduction purpose.

The governor supports research using adult stem cells or leftover frozen embryos from fertility clinics.

"Human cloning for any purpose — whether for research or reproduction — is ethically wrong," Romney wrote in a letter to be delivered to lawmakers Thursday. "Once cloning occurs, a human life is set in motion."

The bill effectively gives the state's blessing to therapeutic cloning (search) or somatic cell nuclear transfer (search) — a process by which scientists create a cloned embryo to harvest embryonic stem cells which they hope can be used to treat and cure disease.

Under current state law, scientists interested in conducting embryonic stem cell (search) research need the approval of the local district attorney. The bill would remove that requirement, give the state Health Department some regulatory controls and ban cloning for reproductive purposes.

Supporters of therapeutic cloning say the research could lead to the cure or treatment of diabetes, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries. But critics say it will allow scientists to create new human life just to destroy it.

Romney has said before he would not sign the Legislature's bill, which was approved by far more than the two-thirds majority needed to override his veto. Lawmakers can adopt his changes or return the bill to Romney as it is. Then Romney can veto the bill or allow it to become law without his signature.

Two states — California and New Jersey — already allow therapeutic cloning. California voters approved a plan last year to spend up to $3 billion over the next decade on the research.