Change coming to embryonic stem cell bill

There’s little question that S.B. 169, the former invitro fertilization bill that now would restrict embryonic stem cell research in Georgia, will pass the state Senate late this evening.

This is not only Crossover Day, but Catholic Day as well — by resolution of the Senate.

However, the stem cell measure is at the very bottom of the Senate calendar — the placement intended to keep most Republicans from ducking out as the hours wear on.

The stem cell bill has two pertinent portions: a) It would declare embryos to be persons deserving of state protection; and b) would bar Georgia couples engaging in IVF treatment from donating spare embryos to science — in Georgia. Donating to other states would remain permissible.

But you can expect one change in the stem cell bill. At a committee hearing this week, state Sen. Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) asked the following:

“If the husband abandons this embryo, if the wife abandons the embryo, is this going to become a liability of the state? Because [the legislation] says the invitro human embryo shall not be intentionally destroyed for any purpose. Are these embryos that are abandoned going to become wards of the state?”

State Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome), who revived the bill last week by rewriting it, gave this reply:

“I think it’s a very good question. And I have raised that issue and others to the proponents of the bill. I don’t think we have an answer to that question. There are implications of defining something as a person at the moment of conception. That’s one of them.”

Don Balfour (R-Snellville), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said an amendment to be presented on the Senate floor will address Grant’s questions of state responsibility for unclaimed embryos.

Meanwhile, my AJC colleague Ben Smith reports that the state House passed a separate bill that could make Georgia the first state in nation to provide adoption of human embryos.

House Bill 388 passed in a 96 to 66 vote that fell mostly, but not entirely along party lines. Most Republicans voted for it, most Democrats voted against.

State Rep. James Mills (R-Gainesville), the bill’s author, presented the Option to Adoption Act as a safeguard against mothers who agree carry the fetuses of infertile couples from refusing to give up the infants after birth.

Some opponents characterized the bill as a back door attempt to outlaw abortion.

One conservative Republican, state Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) argued that the bill amounts “to openly trafficking (embryonic) humans to the adoption market.”

4 comments Add your comment


March 12th, 2009
2:37 pm

So we can see the ignorant hypocrisy built into the language of the bill already! Nice.

“Fetuses are persons with rights and you can’t give them away… at least, not HERE. But it’s okay with us if you dispose of them across the state line.”

How long are we going to put up with the religious nuts trying to dictate policy in this state?

Jen Sutter

March 12th, 2009
7:22 pm

Embryos as they exist in the petri dish if they were held to the standards of “end of life” as defined for organ transplant would not present a viable organ. This may be the most poorly crafted bill in 50 years. GA now ranks below Alabama and Mississippi in intelligence !

kim smith

March 12th, 2009
8:57 pm

It passed.

Watch the bio industry stampede out of this state. Sad. I thought we needed those jobs here.. Since the Christian Coalition ain’t hiring.

John Foster

March 12th, 2009
9:00 pm

I just wrote my senator and rep on this topic. With the job losses and state budget shortfalls we should be doing everything we can to lure Biotech and any other industry to Georgia. All other considerations are secondary.