MILWAUKEE - In his harshest terms yet, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle warned that embryonic stem cell research could come to a standstill in Wisconsin if voters elect his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mark Green.
"There will be no turning back after the vote on Nov. 7," Doyle said during the second televised debate between the two major-party candidates on Friday. "This is something the rest of the country and the rest of the world is looking to Wisconsin for our leadership."
Green "would shut that research down," Doyle said.
Doyle's comments came as he and Green sparred for an hour over such hot-button social issues as abortion, gun control, and the hiring of a controversial professor at the UW-Madison. Both campaigns claimed a "decisive victory" in statements after the debate.
Green, who had appeared unsettled at times in his first debate with Doyle, seemed more relaxed and ready to parry Doyle's attacks. Doyle, meanwhile, stepped up the aggressive tone he first took during an appearance with Green before the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce last week.
As if to underscore Doyle's contention that stem cell research in the state is at a crossroads, a news crew from Australia was among those watching the debate at the Innovation Theater at Discovery World. Australia has been one of several countries promoting stem cell research pioneered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Green, who said he is "compassionately pro-life," said he supports stem cell research but believes that it should not involve the destruction of human embryos or the creation of such embryos for research purposes through so-called therapeutic cloning.
Green would permit only the continued use of embryonic stem cell lines developed before federal research funding limits were imposed in 2001, but he contends that advances in the field may eventually make it unnecessary for any new embryos to be destroyed.
So far, researchers have been unable to produce embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, although some scientists contend that such techniques are possible. Green has promised to provide $25 million in state funding for such research if he's elected.
"This isn't junk science. It's promising science," he said.
Reproductive rights: Doyle also warned that a woman's right to an abortion is in jeopardy if Green is elected, noting that Green opposes abortion in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the health of the mother. Green does support abortion to save a mother's life.
"Which one of us is governor is going to make a huge difference in the what the rights of women will be in this state," Doyle said after declaring, "I believe very strongly women should be able to make their own most personal choices."
Green said he believes "too many women believe abortion is a safety net, a way out. I don't. I want to help them realize that seems to be a safety net is too often a safety hazard."
Green charged that Doyle has said previously he is opposed to any restrictions on abortion, including limits on late-term procedures, also known as "partial-birth" abortions, and requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions. Doyle said during the debate that he supports parental consent.
Same page: There were a few areas where the two men agreed. Both Doyle and Green criticized a proposal by Rep. Frank Lasee, R-Bellevue, to allow teachers and other school employees to carry guns at school. Both said that despite a spate of recent school violence, including the fatal shooting of a principal in Cazenovia last month, such a measure would not increase school safety.
Both also said that the UW-Madison should have fired Kevin Barrett, who was hired to teach a course on Islam this fall, because of his belief that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington were orchestrated by the U.S. government.
Green said Barrett should not have been fired for his controversial views but "because he lacks basic scholarly competence.
"When you have someone representing the University of Wisconsin teaching in the classroom that (Vice President) Dick Cheney was responsible for the World Trade Center bombing and that (presidential adviser) Karl Rove was responsible for the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone, that's an embarrassment to the state," Green said.
Barrett has not covered either topic yet in his class; a syllabus for the class indicated he will discuss conflicting views of the 2001 attacks during one week later this fall, but there is no mention of Wellstone's death.
Doyle said that although he wanted Barrett fired, he believes such decisions should be left to UW officials, "because if politicians start deciding who can teach at the university and what they can say, we're going down a road we shouldn't go down."
Both candidates bemoaned the negative tone of the campaign, but each blamed the other for it. Green blasted Doyle for not accepting voluntary campaign spending limits similar to those adopted by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann in 1998.
Doyle countered that Green does not support limits on the activities of shadowy outside groups that are often responsible for the most vitriolic ads.
Friday's debate was sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, which chose not to invite Green Party candidate Nelson Eisman. A third televised debate will be held in Milwaukee on Oct. 20.