By Maria Saporta
Five Republican candidates for governor have signed off on Georgia Right to Life’s core principles, a pledge that would put a freeze on embryonic stem cell research in the state.
Those five gubernatorial candidates are: Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, Jeff Chapman of Brunswick, Sen. Eric Johnson of Savannah, Ray McBerry of Henry County and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine of Gwinnett County.
“Maybe these gubernatorial candidates did not know what they were signing,” said James Shepherd, co-founder of the Shepherd Center, which is supportive of stem cell research.
According to a report in the Christian News Wire, the five candidates signed on to the Right to Life Political Action Committee’s Affirmation regarding the definition of a “human life.”
The organization said the candidates pledged to support a Georgia Constitutional Amendment that would state:
WHEREAS, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any per son within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law,” Geor gia Right to Life PAC affirms the principle that the right to life is the bedrock upon which all other Constitutional rights are derived.
IN ADDITION, we believe, in the face of compelling biological evidence, that a continuum of human life and personhood begins at the moment of fertilization and ends at natural death, the ethical treatment of human embryos must include their “best interests,”
THEREFORE, as a candidate for public office, I affirm my support for a Human Life Amendment to the Georgia Constitution and other actions that would support these principals. This would assure that regardless of race, age, degree of disability, manner of conception or circumstances surrounding a terminal illness, that the civil rights of the preborn at an embryonic or fetal level, the elderly and those with mental or physical infirmities are protected by law and are violated when we allow destructive embryonic stem cell research, therapeutic or reproductive cloning, animal human hybrids, abortion (except to save the life of the mother), infanticide, euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Shepherd said that such an amendment could be devastating to Georgia’s efforts to become a biomedical research center, one of the state’s top economic development goals.
“It would have a tremendous impact,” Shepherd said. “It doesn’t matter whether it is embryonic, chord blood or adult bone marrow stem cells. We don’t know which one of those three is going to work. All of them have the potential of improving spinal chord injuries, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, sickle cell anemia and juvenile diabetes.”
An ad-hoc group of scientific and industry leaders have been meeting to figure out how they can prevent such an amendment being proposed in the state legislature and how they can get gubernatorial candidates to understand the economic implications of such a stand.
“From an image standpoint, it shows us as being non-progressive, that we don’t favor testing of any of those technologies to see which one would work,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd also said that trying to define “personhood” occurring in a pre-embryonic state could have serious implications, including limiting in vitro fertilization, a method that many previously childless couples have been able to have children.
“When you start down this road, it’s a slippery slope,” Shepherd said.
Instead of this becoming a state issue, Shepherd said it is more appropriate for these questions to be handled on a federal level.
“As a state, we should leave the legislation of stem cell research with the National Institute of Health, and approval of clinical trials with the Federal Drug Administration,” Shepherd said. “Truthfully, our legislature doesn’t have the expertise.”
The gubernatorial election will take place in 2010.