Rick Scott fails to pursue stem cell research ban
Florida's self-described jobs governor Rick Scott has spent far more time on pocketbook issues than social causes. But during the Republican primary in 2010, Scott talked up his conservative stances on social issues including embryonic stem cell research.
In a campaign document, Scott wrote that he "will place a permanent ban on embryonic stem cell research."
He was also quoted on the Palm Beach Post during the campaign as saying: "The most important thing is that I've always been a pro-life individual. That's how I think about things. And my belief that we need a permanent ban on embryonic stem cell research and things like that. Those are the things that are really important in this state."
We gave Scott a Promise Stalled after his first year in office resulted in no action toward such a ban. We wanted to check in on his progress near the end of his third year in office.
First some background on embryonic stem cell research, which we pulled from a fact-check on a claim by former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla. Embryonic stem cell research involves experiments on live embryos obtained through extra eggs of in vitro fertilization patients, who must sign consent forms allowing for experimentation. These eggs are not fertilized inside of the women's body, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Research on human, non-embryonic stem cells is older and less controversial. The key difference is embryonic stem cells can become all cells of the body, while adult stem cells are limited to the cells of their original tissue.
Shortly after President Barack Obama took office, Obama got a Promise Kept from PolitiFact for reversing President George W. Bush's ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001, through executive order.
Scott's desire to ban embryonic stem cell research hasn't translated into action.
We searched bills and news articles and couldn't find any evidence that Scott had taken steps to ban embryonic stem cell research. A spokesman for Scott said he had no updates to provide PolitiFact Florida.
We checked with a few universities to see if they do embryonic stem cell research -- the University of Florida does not do it. At the University of Miami, most of the stem cell research is not embryonic. It does have have embryonic research in macular degeneration and diabetes that is funded with money from the National Institutes of Health and private sources.
"As far as I know it's a promise he didn't fulfill I'm pleased to say," said Bernard Siegel, founder of the Genetics Policy Institute in Palm Beach County. "From the standpoint of those who advocate for research, I'm glad he cast his gaze elsewhere."
We rate this Promise Broken.
Florida House, Bills website, 2011-2014
PolitiFact, "Dave Weldon claims embryonic stem cell research is at a 'dead end,' with no successful treatments," July 31, 2012
PolitiFact, "Obama signs executive order on stem cells," March 9, 2009
Interview, Bernard Siegel, director and founder of Genetics Policy Institute, Sept. 27, 2013
Interview, Janine Sikes, spokeswoman for University of Florida, Sept. 27, 2013
Interview, Lisa Worley, spokeswoman for University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Sept. 27, 2013
Interview, John Tupps, spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, Sept. 30, 2013
Scott's desire for embryonic stem cell ban hasn't proceeded
In campaign materials in 2010, Rick Scott provided a side-by-side comparison to his Republican primary opponent Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.
The document covered several issues including taxes, health care and illegal immigration and ended with stances on embryonic stem cell research. Scott wrote that he "will place a permanent ban on embryonic stem cell research."
Scott reiterated his desire for such a ban in a July 4, 2010, article in the Palm Beach Post:
"The most important thing is that I've always been a pro-life individual. That's how I think about things," he said. "And my belief that we need a permanent ban on embryonic stem cell research and things like that. Those are the things that are really important in this state."
We missed this promise when we first published our Scott-O-Meter to track Scott's campaign promises. But we have since added his promise to ban embryonic stem cell research.
PolitiFact has also tracked a promise by President Barack Obama related to stem cell research. Obama received a Promise Kept in March 2009 after he signed an executive order reversing two of President George W. Bush's policies on stem cells. PolitiFact wrote that Obama's order ended Bush's restrictions that allowed research only on lines that existed at the time of his order.
PolitiFact stated: "This does not mean that federal funds may now go to unlimited research on human embryos. Federal law still bans federal funding for research in which scientists destroy human embryos. Under Obama's order, scientists may now study stem cell lines created by others, but they still may not create their own lines."
PolitiFact also explained that "scientists want to use the cells to develop cures for conditions like Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries. The cells are derived from human embryos, which are destroyed when the cells are extracted. Critics equate that destruction with abortion. The embryos typically come from private fertility clinics, where they would likely have been destroyed anyway." Here's a good primer from the University of Kansas on Stem Cell 101 for more information.
In 2010, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed house budget chief State. Rep. David Rivera's budget language to ban state money for embryonic stem cell research. Rivera, a Miami Republican, is now a member of Congress.
Since Scott took office in January 2011, we could not find any action he had taken related to banning embryonic stem cell research. We contacted his press office to ask if he had taken any steps toward a ban and to clarify who he wants to ban doing such research but didn't get a response. We did find a reference to Scott and stem cells since he took office:
In June, Jackson Laboratory, a company based in Maine and California, announced it would withdraw a request for $100 million in state funding related to a proposed biomedical campus in Sarasota County, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. There had been speculation that Scott's opposition to embryonic stem cell research influenced his administration's lack of interest in the project and Jackson Lab wouldn't rule out such research, the newspaper reported.
We contacted spokespersons for the House and Senate to ask if they were aware of any such bills to ban embryonic stem cell research in 2011 and none could find any.
If Scott intends the ban to apply to universities receiving state funds for such research it may not mean much. We checked in with three major universities and none use public dollars for embryonic stem cell research.
At the University of Miami, the only embryonic stem cell research is privately funded, spokeswoman Lisa Worley said. The University of Florida and University of South Florida don't conduct research on embryonic stem cells.
It's possible that legislators will propose bills to ban embryonic stem cell research in 2012 and such a bill could get Scott's blessing. But for now we rate this Promise Stalled.
Gov. Rick Scott campaign, Comparison of Rick Scott and Bill McCollum, 2010 campaign
Sarasota Herald Tribune, "Jackson Laboratory won't be building facility in Sarasota County," June 4,2011
PolitiFact, "Obama signs executive order on stem cells," March 9, 2009
Miami Herald Naked Politics blog, "Charlie Crist vetoes $371m. Dade, David Rivera, whacked,"May 28, 2011
Palm Beach Post, "Preemie birth case ignites GOP race for governor," July 4, 2010
University of Kansas, Stem Cell 101, Accessed Sept. 9, 2011
Interview, Mark Hollis, spokesman Democratic office House of Representatives, Aug. 25, 2011
Interview, Michelle DeMarco, spokeswoman Florida Democratic Senate Office Aug. 25, 2011
Interview, Brandi Young, legislative analyst Senate Majority Office, Aug. 25, 2011
Interview, Lisa Worley, spokeswoman for University of Miami, Aug. 18, 2011
Interview, Anne DeLotto Baier, spokeswoman for University of South Florida, Aug. 18, 2011
Interview, Janine Sikes, spokesperson for University of Florida, Aug. 18, 2011
Interview, Leslie Veiga, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. David Rivera, Aug. 25, 2011