MADISON, Wis. — Since the late 1990s legislative Republicans have proposed ill-advised legislation that would cripple cutting-edge medical research and threaten scientists with prison time and fines. The latest iteration, Assembly Bill 305 (AB 305), could halt research in Wisconsin on cures for cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, blindness, diabetes and other medical conditions and threaten scientists with fines of up to $50,000 and up to 6 years in prison.
“Once again we see legislative Republicans putting unbridled political opportunism before all else,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “This time they’re using discredited, heavily edited videos produced in possible violation of the law by a shady right-wing group to threaten scientists with prison time for pursuing cures to diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and diabetes.”
The author of the latest attack on scientific research in Wisconsin, Rep. Andre Jacque introduced nearly identical versions of of the legislation in both 2011 and 2013. Despite Republican control of the Legislature, no public hearings or other legislative actions were taken on his proposal to ban the use of fetal tissue in research in either session. The Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety scheduled a public hearing on the measure late last week.
According to experts, all research at the University of Wisconsin is reviewed for to ensure it meets ethical and scientific standards. Currently there are nearly 100 labs on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus that could be impacted by legislation described as “chilling.” Research being conducted includes searches for cures for cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, blindness and other diseases.
Ross noted that in a newspaper interview bill author Rep. Jacque laid bare his hopes that political opportunism will help him advance legislation rejected by his colleagues in previous years, saying he feels, “pretty good about the chances” given the GOP’s manufactured outrage.
He concluded, “Nothing has changed from the last time they proposed this to make banning potentially lifesaving research in Wisconsin and throwing scientists in jail a good idea. The only thing that’s seems to be different is Republican legislators willingness to put crass political opportunism before problem solving in the upcoming Fall session.”