With the presidential race and the financial crisis dominating the political stage this election season, some students feel Proposal 2, a ballot initiative to loosen the state’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, has been overlooked.

Robert Burke speaking on behalf of the pro-life side of the debate.

In an effort to draw more attention to the ballot initiative, the University groups Students for Life and Student Society for Stem Cell Research co-sponsored a debate last night on the merits of the proposal.

Robert Burke, president of Monroe County’s Right for Life, spoke against Proposal 2, while Jack Mosher, an assistant research scientist in the Life Sciences Institute, spoke in favor of the initiative.

Prior to the debate, the student groups met to develop four questions for Burke and Mosher. A quick question and answer session followed the planned portion of the debate.

Throughout the debate, Burke stressed what he called the “problematic” language of Proposal 2, saying the initiative is trampling on the state’s right to regulate stem cell research in Michigan and that it opens the door to the possibility of cloning.

“This proposal is bad legislation, with all the loopholes that are inherent in this language,” Burke said.

Mosher combated Burke’s claim that if the initiative passes on Nov. 4, it would “open the door to taxpayer funding” for embryonic stem cell research, by saying that Proposal 2 does not contain provisions for taxpayer funding.

Mosher stressed the importance of embryonic stem cell research for finding cures for diseases like Parkinson’s Disease or spinal chord injuries.

“We want to allow Michigan scientists to participate in the war against disease,” Mosher said.

LSA junior Lauren Bennett, president of Students for Life, said having the debate was important because Proposal 2 has been overshadowed this election season.

“This is a very pertinent election issue. With all of these issues, a lot of the attention has gone to the candidates themselves, and not a lot has gone to Proposal 2,” she said.

Bennett then pointed to Proposal 2’s support on campus, including from University President Mary Sue Coleman, who has been an outspoken supporter of the initiative, as a reason why opposing arguments need to be presented.

“A lot of members of the University, including our president and many researchers here, have been pushing for this proposal and there really hasn’t been an opportunity for students to hear why there is opposition to it.” Bennett added.

Early polls have indicated the initiative has support statewide. In a Detroit Free Press-Local 4 poll of Michigan voters conducted in September, 58 percent of respondents supported the proposal, 31 percent opposed it and 11 percent said they were undecided.

LSA senior Landon Krantz, president of Student Society for Stem Cell Research, stressed the importance of voting in support of this initiative.

“Michigan is one of the select few states that has this research being illegal,” he said. “It is time for research in Michigan to catch up and modernize and to join the rest of country and world to support stem cell research of all kinds.”

After the debate, Burke said he was pleased with the event, which filled Auditorium D of Angell Hall.

“I think this was awesome,” he said. “I’m glad that there was a collaboration like this put together. We need to be people that can have respectful debates and discussions and dialogue.”

University alum Victor Sinadinoski said he believed the debate went very well, but also recognized the difficulty of addressing all issues in the allotted time.

“Given the amount of time and the urgency of the proposal, I think they did a good job making it clear, but I think there were a lot of things on both sides that were left out.” Sinadinoski said.

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