Your newborn baby could be a life-saving hero! What an exciting idea for any parent.The blood contained in the umbilical cord at the birth of a child is a rich source of stem cells that can be used to treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions and with today’s advances in research, there is great potential for even more. Donating umbilical cord blood could save countless lives or provide a precious resource to researchers to find more cures.
Currently, Pennsylvania is considering SB 1132 – the Statewide Public Cord Blood Banking Act. Co-sponsored by 12 bi-partisan senators, this bill would provide funding for a statewide public cord blood bank system and educational materials to inform people about the value of placental and umbilical cord blood donations. Senator Robert Wonderling (R-Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton) is the lead sponsor. The funding designated in SB 1132 is an important next step to establishing public cord blood banks, building on HB 874 – the Umbilical Cord Blood Banking Education and Donation Act- that was signed into law by Governor Edward Rendell earlier this year. Representative Art Hershey (R-Chester) was the lead among a long list of bi-partisan co-sponsors of that bill.
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the potential to develop into a full range of tissues that constitute the human body. Therapeutic treatments inject stem cells to replace, repair or enhance the biological function of damaged tissues or organs in the patient. Currently stem cells from cord blood and other sources are treating leukemia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and many others with great success.
Unfortunately, donating, collecting and storing cord blood is not as widespread as it should be. HB 874, now Act 12, will offer education to new parents about donating cord blood after the birth of their child. SB 1132 will give the cord blood donations a place to go by providing grants to establish more qualified cord blood banks. This would encourage more facilities to offer cord blood donation opportunities and make more life-saving cord blood available for treatment and research.
Furthermore, biomedical research is big business. It brings good, high-paying jobs and attracts well-educated professionals to remain or relocate in the state. Encouraging research and treatment facilities to locate in Pennsylvania is a good economic development strategy.
Stem cell research, in recent years, is cast in the light of controversy because a small part involves embryonic stem cells, which are obtained by destroying human embryos. Research on umbilical cord blood stem cells provides a pro-life alternative for this important research.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) encourage all Catholics to visit, call write or e-mail their state senators and representatives to urge them to vote “yes” on SB 1132. Log on to pacatholic.org and click “Catholic Advocacy Network” for more details on how to contact state legislators.
PCC Column May 2008 by A. B. Hill, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.