Board of Regents discuss proposed state fetal tissue ban

By Kimberly Wethal

News Editor

In addition to Kopper’s inauguration, the Board of Regents held one of their annual meetings at UW-Whitewater on Sept. 10 and 11.

While most of each meeting entailed dealing with committee reports and policy approvals, there were moments during these meetings that became emotionally driven and hit home for Regent members.

The main discussion of the meeting involved a new bill proposing the ban of fetal tissue being sold for profit – but also includes measures that would prevent UW-Madison’s medical school from conducting research.

Described by Regent Gerald Whitburn as an “overreach,” the legislation would hinder UW-Madison’s ability to perform medical research at their facilities, and prompted a discussion revealing Regents’ personal issues with the bill.

Research of this type has led to medical advancement and cures for disease in the past.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank spoke before the Regents to discuss why the legislation would hinder the university and the UW System.

“We would lose some of our top scientists using fetal tissue, and [they’d] have to leave the state if they were going to continue their research,” Blank said. “We attract a large number of people because of the broad scope of our research who come here because they want to be a part of those teams.

“If a significant component of those teams disappeared from the university, others will choose not to be here as well,” Blank added.

Regent Janice Mueller hesitantly shared her personal experience with cancer to show her support for the use of fetal tissue in research.

“Some of you know I was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year,” Mueller said. “There’s no other answer. That’s the truth. I know what it feels like to have 28 radiation treatments in one part of my body. It hurts me so much to think that children are suffering today as I did.”

Almost all Regents who spoke favored with the stance made by Blank to protect fetal tissue research, with the implication that ethics of researchers would be carefully watched.

This story is a continuation of the Kopper inauguration story, also run on Sept. 15.

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