SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California voters will have the chance to decide whether the state should continue funding stem cell research when they vote on Proposition 14.
If approved, Prop. 14 would authorize $5.5 billion worth of state bonds for stem cell and other medical research.
Supporters say the research has helped save lives by developing treatments and cures for diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes.
In 2004, voters approved $3 billion to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine [CIRM], which is the state’s stem cell agency that was created after the federal government banned funding for embryonic stem cell research.
However, that money is running out and voters must choose if they want to keep CIRM open.
For one Southern California mother, Alysia Vacarro, Prop. 14 is personal. After her daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder, doctors told her she wouldn’t live past the age of two.
Her daughter is now a healthy 8-year-old and Vacarro says that’s all thanks to the funds California voters approved for stem cell research.
The proud mother of three says she never takes any day with her girls for granted after coming so close to losing one of them.
“I never thought we would’ve been the one with the daughter with no immune system. I mean no one’s prepared for that,” Vacarro said.
When her daughter Evangelina was a baby, Vacarro was told that any virus or bacteria could potentially kill her child. Evangelina was diagnosed with SCID, or Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, also known as the 'bubble baby' disease.
“She has a normal life right now. So, she’s not a little girl who has to go in every four weeks to have IVIG and stay in a room in a hospital. She doesn’t have to get an enzyme injection every two weeks,” Vacarro explained.
Evangelina and 50 other children were cured of SCID due to a procedure that took their own blood stem cells to create a new immune system.
The money for that clinical trial came from CIRM, which was created using funds from the ballot measure voters approved in 2004.
“California voters invested in something that as a country, we were not investing in and were not allowed to invest in, and California voters decided that this is something that is important to them,” Vacarro said.
However, some opponents don’t think the stem cell research led to what voters had hoped for and believe the money could be better spent elsewhere.
But for proponents like Vacarro, Prop 14 is about reinvesting in the programs that led to her daughter living a normal life.
“It went from potentially losing my child to having my child...every parent could understand that,” Vacarro added.
Vacarro says she’s grateful for her daughter’s health and hopes more mothers will be able to see their children healed through this research.
“Just like I didn’t think it could be me, no one knows what the future holds for us as far as health,” Vacarro said.
For more information on Prop. 14, go to: voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions/14/