The Boston Globe reported yesterday:
The state's Department of Public Health this week issued regulations banning the creation of embryos for research purposes.
Scientists say stem cell research could lead to breakthroughs in treatments for diseases including cancer. But the issue has become ethically and politically volatile because extracting the cells entails destruction of an embryo.
"I believe it crosses a very bright moral line to take sperm and eggs in the laboratory and start creating human life," Romney told reporters. "It is Orwellian in its scope. In laboratories you could have trays of new embryos being created."
Romney spoke a week after a Massachusetts company, Advanced Cell Technology, said it had developed a way to make human embryonic stem cells without harming the original embryo, a finding it said could dispel ethical objections.
The regulation in question represents just one or two lines in an entire new chapter of regulations implementing the new Chapter 111L of the Mass. General Laws, regulating biotechnology, enacted last year. The only problem is that the regulation implements a section of the law promoted by Governor Romney that didn't make the final cut.
When the regulations were first released for public review and comment, Department staff said that
these regulations seek to clarify that the prohibition against any person knowingly creating embryos by the method of fertilization for donation, under Chapter 111L, Section 8(b), also means that no person may knowingly create embryos by the method of fertilization for use. In essence, researchers may not create fertilized embryos solely for donation to, or use in research. These prohibitions are addressed in [105 CMR] 960.005(A) and (B) of the proposed regulations.
(Emphasis added.) Well, it seems like a bit of a stretch. While administrative agencies are typically accorded great deference in regulating matters within their purview, a challenge to this particular regulation seems likely, since some will say that it goes beyond the Department's legislative authorization.
Update 9/10/06: The Boston Globe ran an article today detailing Romney administration influence over this and other recent DPH initiatives, characterizing its approach as keeping a "tight rein" on the department.