Cross posted at RedState.
My friend David Shafer (R-48) recognizes that there is a problem in the debate over stem cell research — a problem that stretches across party lines and ideological divides. The problem is everyone gets hung up on cloning and embryonic stem cell research and, in the process of arguing, fails to harness the agreed upon parts of the science to move the ball forward. In the Georgia Senate, David Shafer is planning to move the ball significantly down the field with the Delivering the Cure: Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Initiative Act. The act should go a long way toward satisfying both the concerns of the pro-life community and the concerns of those wanting to proceed with due speed in stem cell research.
The act starts off recognizing that embryonic stem cell research is not the only stem cell research possible. It states:
(1) Over 100 million Americans and two billion other humans worldwide suffer from diseases that may eventually be treated more effectively or even cured with stem cells;
(2) Stem cell research has been hampered by the controversy over embryonic stem cells;
(3) Stem cells are not found only in embryos;
(4) The umbilical cord, placenta, and amniotic fluid are rich in stem cells which may be used for scientific research and medical research without destroying embryos;
The act also says
(7) It shall be the public policy of this state to encourage the donation, collection, and storage of stem cells collected from postnatal tissue and fluid and to make such stem cells available for both scientific research and medical treatment. It shall be the public policy of this state to encourage ethical research in life science and regenerative medicine; and
(8) It shall be against the public policy of this state to perform human cloning for either reproductive or research purposes.
In order to accomplish its goals, the law has three significant provisions.
First, a cord bank will be set up with the expectation that it will be self supporting. Any person can donate the umbilical cord of their child to the bank and any researcher approved by the federal government can use cord stem cells for research. The bank will be established as a partnership between the state government and any willing public university in the state. Researchers seeking to use the bank will work with the bank to offset costs and expenses incurred in the collection and storage of the postnatal tissue and fluid. The bill should also help make Georgia eligible for federal grants.
Second, the bill flatly prohibits all forms of human cloning, whether the cloned embryo is intended to be implanted in the womb or not. Any person who experiments in human cloning in Georgia would be guilty of a felony. The law provides some exceptions for non human cloning. Section two of the law states
Nothing in this Code section shall restrict areas of scientific research not specifically prohibited by this Code section, including research in the use of nuclear transfer or other cloning techniques to produce molecules, DNA, cells other than human embryos, tissues, organs, plants, or animals other than humans.
Third, the bill allows taxpayers to donate to the bank on their income tax forms. Any person can elect to send a portion of their tax refund to the cord bank for its upkeep and to help cover the costs of collection and storage of the tissue and fluid.
The bill does not address embryonic stem cell research beyond making it clear that there are alternatives that the State of Georgia will favor. Shafer, who is opposed to embryonic stem cell research, tells me that this legislation is more about saving lives than debating controversy. He also tells me it will be interesting to see who opposes the law because it does not include embryonic stem cell research. “I want Georgia to be a center of ethical scientific research,