State legislators to debate bill banning human cloning
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - For the first time in four years, a bill to ban human cloning will reach full debate in at least one of the chambers of the Missouri General Assembly.
The Senate Judiciary and Civil & Criminal Jurisprudence committee voted 7-2 Feb. 14 to send Senate Bill 160, sponsored by committee chair Sen. Matt Bartle of Lee's Summit, to the full Senate with a "do pass" recommendation.
Deacon Larry Weber, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, called the action "historic."
"We've been pushing for the state to ban human cloning for four years," said Deacon Weber, who heads the state bishops' public policy agency. "We know we have the votes (in the House and Senate) to get it enacted."
In addition to Bartle, other members voting in favor of the bill were Sens. John Loudon of Ballwin, Rob Mayer of Dexter, Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau, Victor Callahan of Kansas City, Chris Koster of Harrisonville and Carl Vogel of Jefferson City.
Voting against the bill were Sens. Charles Wheeler of Kansas City and Chuck Graham of Ashland.
Deacon Weber said opposition to the SB 160 is particularly strong among business interests in the Kansas City area where the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Stowers Institute - a medical research corporation - have joined the "The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures" to promote human cloning as a way to produce embryonic stem cells for use in medical research.
"There is a tremendous amount of politics and money that we are up against," Deacon Weber said, noting that newly elected Gov. Matt Blunt is publicly opposing the bill. "They claim that embryonic stem-cell research is the panacea that will lead to the revitalization of the Kansas City economy, and that's just ridiculous."
Deacon Weber said Gov. Blunt's position is particularly troubling.
"For someone who holds himself out as 'pro-life,' this is very much a life issue," Deacon Weber said.
To help Catholics in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph understand the issue and the church's moral stance against the artificial reproduction of human beings for medical research purposes, Bishop Raymond J. Boland and Coadjutor Bishop Robert W. Finn have begun several initiatives:
Bishop Boland has appointed Rockhurst University professor John Morris as his special advisor on issues involving stem-cell research, cloning and human embryos.
Morris, an expert on medical ethics, will be available for presentations in parishes throughout the diocese. Presentations can be scheduled by calling Diocesean communications director Rebecca Summers at (816) 756-1850, ext. 256.
The two bishops are encouraging Catholics in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to join other Catholics throughout the state in a special "Lobby Day in Jefferson City" March 8. Catholics will receive information packets at 9 a.m. on the third floor rotunda in the State Capitol, then spend the rest of the day urging their representatives to support a statewide ban on human cloning.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Archdiocese in Kansas City in Kansas are sponsoring seminars April 8 on cloning and stem-cell research given by Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., and director of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. Father Pacholcyzk holds a doctorate in neuroscience from Yale University.
Father Pacholczyk will offer a seminar for the public at 7:30 p.m. April 8 in the Rose Theater at Rockhurst High School, 9301 State Line Rd., Kansas City. He will offer a seminar for priests of both dioceses at 1:30 p.m. that day at Cure of Ars Parish, 9401 Mission Rd., Leawood, Kan.
Bishop Boland and Bishop Finn also advised parishes that various groups are also offering presentations about stem-cell research and human cloning that do not present a complete picture of Catholic teaching.
The bishops asked all parishes to notify Bishop Finn before they plan on any presentation on this issue, and stated that the diocese must give specific approval of the person who would represent Catholic teaching at any parish presentation.
Deacon Weber said SB 160 faces a long fight before it is enacted. He said he expects the bill to reach the full Senate within a month. He said he expects the full Senate to pass the bill and send it to the Missouri House of Representatives, where it may face a procedural battle to even reach the floor for full debate and action.
If it passes both houses, the bill will be sent to Gov. Blunt for his signature or veto.
Deacon Weber urged Catholics throughout the state to contact their representatives to support the passage of SB 160.