Regents delay formal statement on fetal tissue bill

Regents delay formal statement on fetal tissue bill

The UW Board of Regents will not yet make a formal statement about a fetal tissue research ban circulating in the Legislature.

Members of the board said Friday that they do have concerns about the measure that would make it a felony to do research on fetal tissue derived after January 1, 2015. 

Board President Regina Millner said she thought making a statement at this point in the discussion of the bill at the Capitol could limit the UW’s influence on the changing legislation.

“I think right now we had a discussion at the board level and that discussion at the board level represents what various regents feel,” Millner said following the meeting.  “Right now we need to let the legislative process work.”

During the meeting held at UW-Whitewater, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the regents that a ban on research using fetal tissue could cause a large number of researchers to leave the state.

“This is one where the impacts on our university are greater than those of anything that we have discussed around budget cuts,” Blank said.

The discussion among those on the board though, ranged from concern about researchers leaving, to how quickly they could act on an official statement, to a greater perception that UW officials may be overstating a potential impact.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, says he’s skeptical that researchers will leave the state.

“I’m not convinced of that,” Nass said Friday.  “I guess we’ll find out.”

But he’s also uncertain of the bill’s future in the Senate, where just 10 lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors.

“I know there are some members that have concerns about the bill,” Nass said.  “I have no idea where the votes are.  That I don’t know.”

Millner told the board they would work with lawmakers as the bill heads for the Assembly later this month, and would call an emergency meeting if necessary to weigh in on the measure.