r Letter From Eastie: The Stem Cell Debate Comes to Eastie.
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Collaged view of Boston, from East Boston

Letter From Eastie

News and other items from East Boston, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Stem Cell Debate Comes to Eastie.

Oy. With all the noise I have to deal with outside my apartment, at least I don't have protesters. If I did, you know there would be water balloons flying out my windows in no time. Poor Trav. I wonder how many of these people would refuse a treatment involving embryonic stem cells if they or one of their children was affected by a life-threatening illness or a spinal chord injury.
Kneeling in front of the brick terrace, arms outstretched, eyes closed, they pray for divine intervention.

On at least eight mornings over the last three weeks, about a dozen members of a Winthrop Catholic church have spent their waking hours pacing the sidewalk outside Senate President Robert E. Travaglini's East Boston duplex to protest his bill promoting stem cell research.

The worship group carries rosary beads, crucifixes, and posters with slogans such as "Stop Playing God" and "This is all about Money," hoping to get their message across. But so far, said the Rev.

Thomas DiLorenzo of Holy Rosary Parish in Winthrop, they have been shunned by the state Senate leader.

"There's an important moral principle here, which is being violated by embryonic stem cell research," said DiLorenzo, who has organized the demonstrations through Holy Rosary and by publicizing them on his daily WEZEAM radio show. "We should never do evil so that good should come from it."

The demonstrations are aggravating some of Travaglini's neighbors.

And yesterday, his wife and his mother-in-law requested a police escort to traverse the 20 feet from their front door to their car.

Travaglini said that he will try to listen to the protesters' concerns, but that he remains committed to seeing the Legislature move his stem cell bill by the end of the month.

"I am trying to be as respectful and as attentive to their position on the issue as I can," Travaglini said at the State House yesterday.

"But I'm also focused on saving lives, and that's more important to me."

As the protests continue, state and city police cars have parked across the street from the Travaglini household. Boston police spokesman Mike McCarthy said officers will not arrest people unless they disturb the peace by blocking foot or car traffic, damaging property, or trespassing on private property.

But neighbors hope the clanging of tambourines and blasting of church hymns will soon come to an end. One neighbor said she was awakened by the commotion last week. Another said they should move the prayer sessions to the State House.

"They don't belong in front of the children protesting," said a third neighbor, Lois Santasousso, 59. "This is not an atmosphere you want."

The group plans to continue its efforts, which began a few days before a legislative hearing two weeks ago on the stem cell bill.

"We are not against stem cell research, but we are totally against embryonic stem cell research," said Suzanne Noye, 52, who drove to East Boston yesterday with a group of demonstrators. "We're praying to make people aware of the fact that this is wrong."

--by Janette Neuwahl, Boston Globe


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