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University of Michigan stem cell scientist Sean Morrison recently got a telephone call from a woman offering to donate her leftover embryos from a fertilization procedure for his studies on Parkinson's disease. What she didn't know was that Michigan law prohibits research on human embryos. Morrison suggested that the woman contact a lab in another state.

Next door in Illinois, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is promoting embryonic stem cell research in an effort to lure scientists and investors, in some cases from neighboring states. In 2005, Blagojevich sent a letter urging Missouri's top scientists to move to Illinois rather than work under a cloud created by Missouri legislators' ultimately unsuccessful efforts to ban research on human embryos.

"The lack of federal leadership leaves a vacuum that states are trying to fill on a very piecemeal basis," said Michigan state Rep. Andy Meisner (D). He is trying for the third year in a row to amend 1978 and 1998 Michigan statutes so that the nascent research can go forward in the job-hungry state's acclaimed medical research institutions.

Some religious leaders and...