By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant
Hello again, everybody! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season full of joy and wonder.
As 2008 begins, most of us in the Legislature are putting the final touches on bills and resolutions we intend to introduce for this year. Every year, thousands of bills are introduced and hundreds of bills will die when they are denied even a hearing by committee leaders.
It is an indiscriminate process, with dozens of good bills killed alongside some really bad ones. One of the bills I will introduce for 2008 is another try on one of those good bills caught up in last year’s frenzy to kill bills.
I introduced a measure that would have created Oklahoma’s first public umbilical cord blood bank. The bill would have allowed Oklahoma parents to collect and bank blood found in the umbilical cord following the birth of a baby. That blood, usually discarded, is rich in stem cells with the potential to cure many life-threatening illnesses.
While the bill won bipartisan support in the evenly divided Senate, House leaders shelved it, most likely because of partisan politics. That bill is gone, but this is an issue that will not go away.
Right now, the only option for Oklahomans wanting to preserve cord blood is to use private cord blood banks. These private entities are so expensive their services are out of reach for all but the wealthiest of families. That means potentially life-saving procedures are denied to most of us.
My proposal would have created a publicly funded cord blood bank in Oklahoma, allowing every family to donate their infant’s cord blood without regard to their personal wealth. Also, any Oklahoman needing compatible life-saving cord blood would have access to the bank.
Texas is already ahead of us in this effort. The Texas Legislature in 2005 approved a $3.5 million expenditure that began their cord blood bank. That public investment is being combined with private donations, and my bill is modeled after that.
We owe it to ourselves and our children to catch up. There are cases of children whose lives flickered before they received stem cell transplants made possible by cord blood donations. Many of those once-flickering souls now shine brightly in the form of healthy children.
We are not talking about a lot of money: $3.5 million, less than one dollar for every Oklahoma man, woman and child. It is a small price to pay, and we dare not let this chance to save and improve Oklahomans lives pass us by.
This is another of those issues to which I am committed for as long as I serve as your senator. If it does not pass this year, I will introduce a public cord blood bank bill every year until it is a reality or my time in the Senate is complete. We owe this to ourselves and our posterity.
Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week and may God bless you all.