Amendment would protect cloning, embryonic research
By Catholic Key Staff
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Catholic Conference is urging Catholics to be wary of a petition drive that would place before the state's voters a constitutional amendment that would prevent the Missouri General Assembly from banning human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research while opening the door to public funding of such research.
Deacon Larry Weber, executive director of the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, called the effort "a very crafty amendment that buries in the fine print how the cloning industry will access public funds to use in destroying human life."
The so-called "Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative" will be placed on the statewide ballot if proponents are able to obtain the signatures of approximately 150,000 Missouri registered voters in its petition drive that was launched Oct. 11. About 2.7 million voters cast ballots in the 2004 Missouri governor's race.
Calling itself the "Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures," proponents of the amendment include the Stowers Institute in Kansas City and Washington University in Missouri who worked successfully in the 2005 session to kill a bill before the Missouri Senate that would have banned human cloning.
The proposed amendment would give state constitutional protection to "any stem cell research permitted under federal law," according to the coalition's press release.
The proposed amendment would specifically protect research using stem cells from human embryos produced through a cloning procedure called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the same cloning procedure that has produced living sheep, cats and dogs in laboratories.
Sam Lee of Campaign Life Missouri noted that the amendment purports to ban "cloning" by redefining it. Under the proposed amendment, only the implantation of a cloned embryo into a female uterus would be considered "cloning." Embryos produced by the SCNT cloning process could still be produced and destroyed for their stem cells for research, Lee said.
"This initiative would guarantee a constitutional right to clone human beings," Lee said. "It will allow for the wholesale cloning of human embryos at taxpayers' expense."
In its press release announcing its campaign, the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures claimed the amendment is necessary to "prevent state-level bans of any type of stem cell research and cures including those involving adult stem cells, early or embryonic stem cells, stem cells from the SCNT process and from leftover fertility clinic embryos."
"It is astonishing," Deacon Weber said, "that a coalition of such learned individuals would claim that Missouri in any way hinders stem cell research that has a reasonable chance of success."
Deacon Weber noted that the Missouri General Assembly this year passed legislation that promotes research using adult stem cells present in every human body and from other sources such as umbilical cord blood. Adult stem cells can be obtained for research without killing human life at any stage.
Therapies involving adult stem cells have been used successfully in treating dozens of chronic diseases and injuries, Deacon Weber said. Embryonic stem cell research has "not produced a single cure," he said.
The proposed amendment, he noted, would prohibit any state or local government in Missouri from withholding public funds from embryonic stem cell research.
"Pro-life Missouri taxpayers will be asked to fund immoral scientific research and be active participants with those scientists who seek to create human beings solely for medical research," Deacon Weber said.
"Cloning is the most exploitive form of medical research imaginable," he said. "The Catholic Church will always be opposed to the intentional destruction of one human being for the benefit of another."
Deacon Weber said that the petition drive and any subsequent political campaign to pass the amendment if it reaches the ballot both will be well funded.
"Our job and the job of all people of conscience will be to speak the truth and let voters know what the proposed amendment is really about - destroying human life and advancing unethical research using public funds," he said.