Embryology, Georgian style


Even as President Obama was signing his revocation of the Bush rule on stem cell research, the Georgia state senate was getting set to vote on the Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act, which would define a living human embryo as a person and prohibit the destruction of an embryo for any reason, including embryonic stem cell research. What about those embryos that couples pursuing in vitro fertilization are keeping frozen in fertility labs? Suppose in these hard times a couple can’t afford the $500 to keep them frozen? The senators haven’t figured that one out yet.

The Georgia medical establishment and my old colleagues on the Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial board are agin it, even as Georgia Right to Life and the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Catholic Church are fur it. My guess is that the bill never makes it into law. Why? There are three lines arguments on these kinds of issues in Georgia. There’s the moral values line, the Enlightenment line, and then there’s the “what will this mean for Georgia’s economy?” line.

Back in 2004, when the Georgia Department of Education tried to deep-six the word “evolution” from its science education standards, a University of Georgia Ph.D. candidate in genetics wrote in the AJC, “At a time when
the state is desperately trying to court the biotech industry, these science
standards encourage companies to look elsewhere.” Sure enough, the DOE backed off.

This time, the argument is much stronger and it goes like this:

Charles Craig, president of Georgia Bio, a private nonprofit that
promotes Georgia’s life sciences industry, said the legislation would
hurt Georgia’s ability to recruit biotech firms.

“It would embarrass the state,” Craig said. Georgia is trying to use
an international biotech convention in Atlanta in May to showcase the
state as a good place to do biotechnology business.

Kenneth Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic
Development, listened to the committee debate but did not offer an
opinion. All he would say was that during the upcoming biotech
convention, “The eyes of the world are going to be on Georgia.”

Tom Daniel, senior vice chancellor for the Board of Regents of the
University System of Georgia, said the university system opposes the
bill. “We’re concerned it would have a damaging effect on research
being done now and our ability to successfully do that in the future,”
he said.

 Religion may count for a lot in Georgia, but bidness is bidness.