Actor Michael J. Fox, who has emerged as a prominent advocate for disease research since he made public his diagnosis of Parkinson’s, asks California voters to pass Proposition 71 in a television ad scheduled to air statewide starting next week.
Proposition 71 would provide $3 billion for embryonic stem cell research if passed by the voters Nov. 2.
“71 will support research to find cures for diseases that affect millions of people ... including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Fox says in the ad, speaking directly to the camera. “Please support the effort to find cures.... It could save the life of someone you love.”
In the ad, Fox also says that his most important role lately is “as an advocate for patients ... and for finding new cures for diseases.”
The commercial is the latest in a well-funded media campaign aimed at making California a magnet for embryonic stem cell research, a field of study currently under strict limitations for federal funding.
So far, supporters of the initiative have raised nearly $20 million. The opposition has $136,000.
Wayne Johnson, a Sacramento lobbyist helping to coordinate opposition to Proposition 71, said his group currently does not have the resources to run television commercials, but may air some radio ads opposing the initiative.
Some opponents of the initiative argue that using human embryos for research is unethical, even if the goal is to cure diseases. Others say they do not object to stem cell research itself, but believe that Proposition 71 would cost too much.
Money for research would be raised through the sale of state bonds at an overall estimated cost of about $6 billion over the 30-year course of the loan.
Embryonic stem cells are created at the earliest stages of life and have the potential to develop into any type of cell in the body. Many scientists believe they hold great promise for the treatment and understanding of disease, but caution that the research is in such early stages that any such progress would probably be years in the future.
Previous ads released by Proposition 71 backers have featured leading scientists in the field discussing the promise of stem cell research, as well as people suffering from diseases that proponents contend could be helped by the research.
Johnson criticized the pro-71 ads that have aired as “all about hope and promise, but very short about facts.”