Michigan Stem Cell Amendment, Proposal 2 (2008)
The Stem Cell Initiative, also known as CureMichigan, will appear on the November 2008 ballot as Proposal 2. The amendment would allow the donation of embryos produced in fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded and would allow researchers to create embryonic stem cell cultures to study disease. It would allow government funding of stem-cell research. Human cloning would continue to be illegal.
This measure is an initiated constitutional amendment.
The initiative is sponsored by the Stem Cell Research Ballot Question Committee (BCQ). The same committee tried to get a similar stem cell initiative on the 2006 ballot but failed to collect sufficient signatures. Former Speaker Rich Johnson and former Congressman Joe Schwarz have been supporters of the initiative as well.
The group believes that stem-cell research could lead to cure for Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, and juvenile diabetes.
Michigan joins North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisiana, and Arkansas in having the nation's most restrictive laws on stem cell research. Scientists in Michigan who use human embryos for stem cell research can face 10 years in prison and up to a $10 million fine, according to the Michigan Stem Cell Research Ballot Question Committee.
Medical News Today endorsed the measure in an Ocober editorial, noting that the embryonic stem cell research ban damages the ability of the University of Michigan, one of the "leading stem cell research centers," to conduct cutting-edge embryonic stem cell research and to recruit leading researchers.
Kristina Wilfore of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a national organization that advocates for liberal ballot measures, has written that "progressives should feel good" about the initiative.
Study shows big benefits
A new study from Michigan Prospect, a public policy group, indicates that embryonic stem cell research could help hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan, save millions per year in health care costs, and create jobs in the state's growing biotech economy.
The study looked at seven common illnesses that embryonic stem cells could potentially treat: Type I diabetes, Parkinson's disease, acute heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, and Lou Gehrig's disease.
Allen Goodman, the study's lead author and a Wayne State University economics professor, said that more than 770,000 people in Michigan had those illnesses in 2006 and that advances derived from stell-cell research could shave $80 million off the $8-billion annual treatment costs.
"Because we are one of five states, the largest of five states that make this research difficult, 1% is a conservative estimate," he said. "It's a small, but positive impact, here in Michigan."
The study is based on research that would be funded privately or through institutional funds. Goodman said if the state invested in the research, the potential savings would be higher.
Relaxed restrictions on embryonic stem cell research would create about 443 well-paying jobs, Goodman said, and 354 jobs in other sectors as a result. Researchers have said Michigan's restrictions make it difficult to attract top biomedical talent. "An environment that forbids you to do something sends you away," said Jim Eliason, an adult stem cell researcher at WSU and a consultant to the study.
The study was funded by foundations, unions, and education groups, including Michigan Citizens for Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Cures.
Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science & Experimentation (MiCAUSE) is leading the opposition campaign. The group is co-chaired by State Sen. Tom George (R-Kalamazoo) and Patricia McDonald.
"This proposal is deceptive and is hazardous because it will allow unregulated and unrestricted experimentation on human embryos," said George, a practicing physician.
McDonald added, "As a cancer patient and former head of a nonprofit health care organization, I'm concerned about the false promises made by promoters of this proposal."
Right to Life Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference have also organized to oppose the issue. While the groups support stem cells taken from adults or umbilical cords, they oppose the methods that include the destruction of embryos.
Right to Life is planning a statewide ad blitz campaign, spending $200,000, hoping to dissuade petition signers. The Michigan Catholic Conference is starting an informational campaign and mailing it to 500,000 households.
Cure Michigan raised $2.2 million between Jan. 1 and Sept. 18, 2008, and spent almost all of it to get the issue on the ballot. Among its largest donors are the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert, the A. Alfred Taubman Restated Trust, philanthropist Robert Thompson, and former Blue Cross Blue shield of Michigan leader Richard Whitmer.
MiCAUSE, which opposes to Proposal 2, raised $594,000 between its formation in Summmer 2008 and Sept. 18, 2008. Most of the contributions came from the Michigan Catholic Conference ($500,000) and Right to Life of Michigan ($35,000). 
Television ads pro and con
The Cure Michigan campaign launched their ad campaign Sept. 26, 2008, running a 30-second ad that attacks an ad being run by Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science and Experimentation, which opposes the measure. The opponents ad says that the proposal would be costly for taxpayers. But the Cure Michigan ad says that charge is a lie and that the measure doesn't call for "one cent of taxpayer money."
While Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science and Experimentation acknowledges that the measure doesn't directly call for taxpayer funds, they say that supporters of the measure have said that they intend to seek goivernment funding for stem cell research.
One of MiCAUSE's anti-Proposal 2 ads claims that the initiative would entice for-profit companies to establish research-and-development operations in Michigan where they would be able to conduct unrestricted stem cell experimentation. Ominous music plays while the logos and headquarter facades of fictitious corporations with names like Embrolux, HumanHarvest and Cloneway flash across the screen.
State medical society takes neutral position
The Michigan Medical Society took a neutral position on this ballot measure, as well as on two other initiatives related to health care (the Health Care for Michigan Initiative and the Coalition for Compassionate Care Initiative) at its annual delegates meeting in early May 2008.
Poll shows voter support
A Detroit Free Press-Local 4 Michigan Poll shows 58% of respondents in favor of Proposal 2, with 31% opposed and 11% undecided. The poll, conducted Sept. 22-24, 2008, was based on telephone interviews with 602 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The measure was certified for the November ballot on Aug. 21, 2008, as Proposal 2. Supporters submitted more than 570,000 signatures on July 7, 2008. At least 380,126 valid signatures are required to earn the measure a place on the November ballot.  
- Michigan 2008 Ballot Measures
- Michigan Initiative and Referendum Law
- Campaign finance requirements for Michigan ballot measures
- Michigan signature requirements
- Petition drive deadlines in 2008
- Cure Michigan
- Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures web site
- Proposal 2 Goes 2 Far web site
- Stem Cell Research Cures web site
- Michigan Secretary of State, Ballot Status
- Analysis of Proposal 2 by Citizens Research Council of Michigan
- Holland Sentinel: Opinion: "Stem-cell initiative masks infanticide," Aug. 31, 2008
- Hillsdale Daily News: "Stem cell research could be on Nov. ballot," Feb. 11, 2008
- Embryonic stem cell group raising money for ballot drive, MLive, Jan. 24, 2008
- Website contrasting embryonic and other stem cells
- OL Exclusive Analysis: Stem Cell Research Ballot Committee Has Self-Dealing Issues & a History, Outside Lansing blog, Nov. 6, 2007
- Medical News Today: "Editorial Endorses Michigan Embryonic Stem Cell Research Initiative," Oct. 6, 2008
- Huffington Post, Ballot Initiatives in 2008: Change Vs. More of the Same, June 12, 2008
- Detroit Free Press: "Study: Stem cell research would help Michigan," Sept. 16, 2008
- Detroit News: "Stem cell study battle heats up," Aug. 12, 2008
- Detroit Free News: "Stem-cell proposal fight cost less than $3 million," Sept. 26, 2008
- Campaign Finance Report, Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science and Experimentation
- Detroit Free Press: "Michigan stem cell research supporters launch ad campaign," Sept. 26, 2008
- Detroit Free Press: "What stem cell report really says," Oct. 8, 2008
- Detroit News: "Medical Society takes 'neutral' position on stem cell ballot initative," May 4, 2008
- Detroit Free Press: "Michigan voters support use of medical marijuana, stem cells," Sept. 30, 2008
- Detroit Free Press: "Michigan voters to decide on medical marijuana, stem cell research," Aug. 21, 2008
- Detroit Free Press: "Push is on to lift stem-cell research ban," July 3, 2008
- WWMT-TV News: "Stem cell proposal may be on the November ballot," July 7, 2008
- Record-Eagle: "Op-Ed: Stem cells likely biggest issue in Nov.," July 13, 2008
- Detroit Free Press: "Stem-cell ballot language submitted," Jan. 30, 2008