Publication date: December 1, 2006
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
“Passage of the stem cell constitutional amendment in Missouri, albeit by a slim margin, came as a welcome victory of science over ideology.” That is the opinion—though a poorly informed one—of the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch three days after the citizens of Missouri voted by a margin of only 2 percent to pass Amendment 2—the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.
Jaci Winship, executive director of Missourians Against Human Cloning, had a different view as she writes, “Truth was defeated and deception won a victory.”
These two opposing comments reflect the basic struggle that took place in Missouri between those who argued for a “Yes” vote on Amendment 2 and those who advocated for a “No” vote. Fueled by the mainstream media, confusion and deception reigned.
In making an informed decision, a person needs to know the facts. But in the debate on embryonic stem cell research and cloning (as well as many other issues), the average person relies—unfortunately—on the mainstream media and his or her circle of family, friends, or colleagues for the “facts.” That often results in disinformation and serious error.
One of the major deceptions in the Missouri debate centered on what the Amendment would or would not permit. Proponents insisted the amendment would not permit cloning. Opponents insisted it would. Who was telling the truth?
The “Fair Ballot Language” from the Missouri Secretary of State’s website states, “This amendment will allow Missouri patients and researchers access to any method of stem cell research, therapies and cures permitted under federal law.” It definitely states that a “Yes” vote would “ban human cloning or attempted cloning.” But is a definite statement necessarily a true statement?
The question (not answered by the Fair Ballot Language) that must be answered is “what is meant by ‘stem cell research’ and ‘human cloning?’”
In the “Full Text” section of the Secretary of State’s website, the amendment’s definition of “stem cell” is found:
“Stem cell” means a cell that can divide multiple times and give rise to specialized cells in the body, and includes but is not limited to the stem cells generally referred to as (i) adult stem cells that are found in some body tissues (including but not limited to adult stem cells derived from adult body tissues and from discarded umbilical cords and placentas), and (ii) embryonic stem cells (including but not limited to stem cells derived from in vitro fertilization blastocysts and from cell reprogramming techniques such as somatic cell nuclear transfer.The last four words in both definitions hold the key to understanding the truth. “Somatic cell nuclear transfer” is the scientific (not ideological) term for cloning. The amendment clearly says it bans human cloning, so how can it ban cloning in one section of the amendment and permit it in another? Checking the definition section again, you will find:
Human embryonic stem cell research,” also referred to as “early stem cell research,” means any scientific or medical research involving human stem cells derived from in vitro fertilization blastocysts or from somatic cell nuclear transfer.
“Clone or 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.There you have it. While a “Yes” vote on Amendment 2 was a vote against reproductive cloning (implanting a cloned human being in a uterus and carrying him or her to term), it was also a vote for therapeutic cloning (creating human embryos for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells).
When all the other examples of deception (too numerous for this space) surrounding Amendment 2 are objectively examined, there can be little doubt that Jaci Winship is right—deception won over truth.