As the midterm elections draw near, stem cell politics may be taking a new turn. For years, the debate about stem cell and cloning research has focused almost completely on the moral status of embryos. The need for young women to provide fresh eggs for cloning research, and the risks that poses, have been all but overshadowed.

In several senatorial and gubernatorial races, stem cell research is still being played as an extension of embryo and abortion politics. Political candidates are still using it as an opportunity to drive wedges or shore up bases.

But some women's health advocates and policy makers are beginning to grapple seriously with the issue of egg procurement for research and the tricky ethical challenges it poses. They are asking hard questions about how women can meaningfully consent to egg retrieval when there is so little data about the safety of the procedure. And they are proposing bottom-line criteria about oversight and regulation that will reduce the risks to women who agree to provide their eggs to researchers.

California, where stem cell research is being... see more