National Catholic Register

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The ‘Clone-Me’ State

Missourians Rally Against Killer Constitutional Amendment

BY TOM McFEELY

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

April 1-7, 2007 Issue | Posted 3/27/07 at 9:00 AM

 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Many Missouri voters thought they were banning cloning, not authorizing it, when they voted last fall for a ballot initiative that authorized state funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

That’s because the summary on the ballot about the initiative, Amendment 2, indicated it would amend the state constitution to ban human cloning. In fact, the amendment authorizes funding of procedures to clone human embryos so long as the embryos are subsequently killed and used for research.

“I thought it was a pro-life measure,” said Missouri pro-lifer Cindy Suddarth, who planned to vote for Amendment 2 until she attended a meeting before the elections and learned it would authorize embryo-killing research. “And I felt it was just so dishonest about what was being voted on, and what people would see on the ballot compared to what was actually written in the amendment.”

Because of the confusion about cloning, opponents of embryonic research are now asking the state Legislature to put Amendment 2, which passed by a narrow 51.2% majority, back on the ballot in 2008.

Suddarth was among 1,000 pro-life Missourians who rallied against the initiative March 7 at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. Legislation to place Amendment 2 back on the ballot in 2008 has been introduced in the House and Senate, but supporters of embryonic stem-cell research have vowed to filibuster the bills.

If the Legislature can’t act on the matter, pro-lifers plan to launch a citizen’s initiative to force another vote on Amendment 2.

Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, who is co-sponsor of two bills against Amendment 2, said March 13 that pro-life legislators probably lack the votes to overcome a filibuster.

“I think it will be very difficult to break a filibuster and get it voted on,” said Engler, a Knights of Columbus member who is a past president of his parish council at St. Joseph’s Church in Farmington. “I think what we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to keep the fires burning and rely upon an initiative petition drive next year.”

Connie Farrow, spokeswoman for the pro-embryonic stem-cell research lobby group Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, did not respond to requests for an interview. But Farrow told the Associated Press March 7 that Amendment 2 did not authorize cloning.

“We stand firm in our contention that the state constitution clearly bans any attempt to clone a human being, and we reject the notion that Missourians were too stupid to know what they were doing when they voted to pass Amendment 2,” Farrow said.

Engler said that Farrow and other Amendment 2 supporters have adopted the position that human cloning only occurs after a cloned embryo is placed in a woman’s body and allowed to develop.

Generally, cloning is regarded as having occurred whenever scientists create a new life that has a copy of another individual’s genetic material. But according to the text of Amendment 2, “‘Cloning or an attempt to clone a human being’ means to implant in a uterus or attempt to implant in a uterus anything other than the product of fertilization of an egg of a human female by a sperm of a human male for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy that could result in the creation of a human fetus, or the birth of a human being.”

Said Engler, “They’ve changed the whole definition of what cloning is. That’s where it was deceptive.”

Deacon Larry Weber, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, said the state’s Catholic bishops are strongly supporting the pro-life effort to place Amendment 2 back on the ballot.

“The majority of Missouri voters thought they were voting in favor of a ban on human cloning,” he said. “And many have since found out what we were trying to get the word out about before the election — that the amendment only bans some forms of human cloning but allows human cloning in order to create and destroy human life for medical research.”

Lessons Learned

Austin Ruse, president of the New York-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, served as campaign manager for Missourians Against Human Cloning (nocloning.org) for the last month of the election campaign.

He said that pro-lifers initially focused on highlighting the fact that adult stem-cell research, which is not morally problematic, has generated more than 70 medical treatments and cures whereas embryo-killing stem-cell research has yielded no medical benefits.

However, the assessment of the relative benefits of the two types of research is a complex scientific debate and that focus failed to sway voters to the pro-life side, Ruse said.

But when the debate was framed instead in the context of human cloning, the 25-point lead that Amendment 2 held in mid-October opinion polls was almost eradicated in only three weeks.

And while that shift in voter attitudes wasn’t quite enough to defeat the initiative, Ruse said the closeness of the outcome has prevented embryonic stem-cell research advocates from being able to claim that the Missouri results prove that most Americans favor such research.

“One of the things that we hope Missouri did was show people how a change in messaging can come close to winning, if not win outright,” Ruse said. “When you can make it about cloning and egg harvesting and state funding, then the game really changes, because national polls and statewide polls in Missouri show that people are overwhelmingly against cloning.”

Ruse said that while it’s an “uphill battle” to overturn Amendment 2, it will be a crucial win for pro-lifers nationally if it is.

Said Ruse, “If it could be overturned, it would be an earthquake.”

Tom McFeely is based in

Victoria, British Columbia.