updated 1/7/2004 2:49:03 PM ET 2004-01-07T19:49:03

New Jersey became the second state to allow stem cell research on Sunday as Gov. James E. McGreevey signed a law he said will “move the frontiers of science forward.”

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Stem cell research, which has been strongly opposed by anti-abortion groups and the Roman Catholic church because it involves the use of fetal and embryonic tissue, is also permitted in California and bills are pending in Illinois and New York.

McGreevey was joined Sunday by Christopher Reeve, the actor who was paralyzed by a 1995 fall from a horse and has become an advocate for increased funding for medical research.

“Today we celebrate the possible in our state,” McGreevey said. “It is our obligation as a people and as a state to move the frontiers of science forward.”

Federal funding limited
Embryonic stem cells used for research are grown in a laboratory and do not involve pregnancy. Scientists hope to someday direct stem cells to grow into replacement organs and tissues to treat a wide range of diseases.

President Bush, citing ethical considerations, has limited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to existing lines of cells.

Opponents of the bill said they were disappointed but not surprised that McGreevey signed it.

“We were hopeful that perhaps he would take the expert opinions and concerns into consideration before formulating his final decision, which unfortunately he did not,” said Marie Tasy of New Jersey Right to Life.

Reeve said although many people have asked what stem cells could do to cure his spinal cord injury, “it is not about what stem cells will do for one individual.”

“What it’s about, this legislation, is about whether or not we have the courage to protect the freedom of ethical and responsible scientific inquiry,” Reeve said.

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