In the wake of President Obama's executive order lifting some federal restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell research, antiabortion-rights groups are pushing for legislation in several states to restrict the use of human embryos in research, the New York Times reports. The Georgia Senate on Thursday passed a bill (S.B. 169) that would ban therapeutic cloning and the creation of embryos for purposes other than procreation. In addition, Mississippi's House passed a bill last week that prohibits the University of Mississippi from using state money for research that destroys human embryos, and other states are considering legislation that would define an embryo as a person. Other state legislatures have had a different reaction to the executive order, welcoming Obama's decision and "hoping for an infusion of research dollars," the Times reports.

The Georgia legislation is a narrowed version of what originally had been a "sprawling bill that took on both the fertility industry and stem cell research," according to the Times. The original bill, backed by Georgia Right To Life, would have defined an embryo as a "biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity," limited the number of embryos that could be implanted in a woman during in vitro fertilization, and outlawed the destruction of unused embryos or their donation to science. It also included criminal penalties. Sean Tipton, a spokesperson for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, said Senate leaders removed the IVF-related provision after infertility patients voiced strong objections. The version that passed the Senate does not specify penalties for violators or address unused embryos created for IVF. The state university system, patient groups and fertility clinics oppose the bill, arguing that it would be a barrier to the state's bioscience industry, "one of the brighter spots in Georgia's faltering economy," the Times reports. According to Charles Craig, president of the industry group Georgia Bio, even if the bill does not become law, its support in the Senate makes recruitment of scientists and biotechnology leaders more difficult. "It's sending a signal that Georgia is anti-science," he said.

Daniel Becker, president of Georgia Right To Life, said, "We allege that the emerging technologies are outstripping our political will for ethical restraint." He added, "They're proliferating at an exponential rate. It's very important that we establish ethical guidelines to prevent what we call 'Frankenscience.'" The Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptists also oppose the use of embryos in research. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), who in the past has supported the state's efforts to attract science and technology businesses, said he supports the bill. Perdue said, "I can't in my conscience fathom that we would create human embryos to be used in scientific research. That's where Georgia draws the line" (Dewan, New York Times, 3/14).

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