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California Makes Advances with Ethical Stem Cell Legislature

Catholic News Agency, November 6, 2007

California recently signed two bills into law.  Both pieces of legislature involved the use of umbilical cord blood for medical treatment and research purposes.  Cord blood is often discarded following birth, but the collection of blood from the umbilical cord as well as research will be funded by the companion bills which are supported by the California Catholic Conference.

In honor of his young neighbor who was diagnosed with leukemia several years ago, AB-34 was introduced by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.  All traces of her leukemia vanished after she underwent an umbilical cord blood transplant under experimental circumstances.

By providing adaptable stem cells, over 70 blood disorders can be treated with the use of umbilical cord blood.  More genetic matching is required when using bone marrow, which makes finding a cord blood match much easier.

California Catholic Conference spokeswoman, Carol Hogan told California Catholic Daily, “Only 200-300 cord blood tissue types need to be gathered and stored to match virtually any recipient who would need this type of therapy.  With umbilical blood you don’t need a one-to-one match.”

Since fewer genetic markers are involved, finding an umbilical blood donor is easier than finding a compatible organ donor said Hogan.  Portantino made two promises when he realized that the transplant could save lives: one promise was that he would push to expand cord-blood storage if he was even given enough authority, and the other was that he would donate blood from the umbilical cord if his wife ever gave birth to another child.

The bill will support public cord blood banks by creating a special fund for donations and federal money with the establishment of the Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program.

To improve the prospects for thousands of Americans who die each year while waiting for a suitable blood match, Portantino's goal is to create a genetically diverse supply of cord blood in California.

Steps to inform mothers about options for donating cord blood will also be taken with the passing of SB-962, which is the companion bill to AB-34.  Umbilical cord blood research is supported by the second bill.

The California Catholic Conference has praised the new laws.

“The Catholic Conference strongly opposes harvesting stem cells from embryos, but we supported AB-34 and SB-962 because using umbilical cord cells poses no danger to human life,” stated spokeswoman Carol Hogan.

Since so many have been proven to benefit from it, the Conference is in agreement with the idea of cord blood banking.  In stark contrast, stem cells which have been derived from destroyed human embryos have never successfully treated even one single known human ailment.


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