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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Step forward or step back?

By Scott Henry

On Friday, Sonny Perdue flexed his executive-order muscles and created the Governor's Commission for Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Research and Medical Treatment. The move seemed to be the guv's way of salvaging a bill by Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, that would have set up a network of public/private banks for umbilical cord blood and placental tissue for use by researchers. Shafer's bill, which gained notoriety for originally containing a provision to criminalize certain types of stem-cell research, failed to gain final approval in the waning minutes of the General Assembly.

However, Sonny's order comes with no funding. At best, the commission is simply a way for the state to tap experts as unpaid consultants to help Georgia attract biomedical research grants. Unfortunately, Perdue has a bad habit of shoring up his conservative support by adding right-to-lifers to important boards that set public health policy. Exhibit A was the appointment of Bruce Cook, the owner of an abstinence-education publishing company, as chairman of the Department of Human Resources board. Cook's first move was to try to shut down teen health clinics that distributed condoms.

Sen. David Adelman, D-Atlanta, who introduced a stem-cell research bill later co-opted by Shafer, says Perdue's proclamation still does little to encourage the most promising types of research, such as those championed by Nancy Reagan. While other states have pledged millions toward a broad range of research, Perdue, by contrast, has advanced no money and is mainly focused on appeasing Sadie Fields and the Christian Coalition.

"Georgia is continuing to fall behind," Adelman says.

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