The media campaign to promote Missouri’s Amendment 2 — which would make the cloning and killing of human embryos for research a constitutional right — has drawn national headlines in recent weeks. But for voters in my home state, it has been a staple of local television and radio for a year. Thanks to the $28-million campaign bankrolled by a pair of Kansas City billionaires with no patience for the legislative process, Missourians have been inundated with ads urging us to support “lifesaving stem cell cures” by passing Amendment 2.
Nearly every Missourian with a television set has seen them by now: the softly lit snapshots of a mother’s plaintive face as she pleads for cures to the tune of violins; snippets of grandfatherly authority and former Senator Jack Danforth assuring us that he would never support anything that opposed his pro-life principles; images of men and women in white coats scolding amendment opponents for ignoring the science and scorning the sick.
No one watching these ads wants to be the religious fanatic who casts his ballot out of superstition or the curmudgeonly killjoy who treasures faceless embryos more than sick toddlers and dying grandmothers. In the make-believe world of stem-cell hype, those are the only options for opponents of Amendment 2.
But in the real world, things are different. When violins stop playing and the cameras stop rolling, Missouri voters are left with only the cold, hard facts: Amendment 2 makes research cloning a constitutional right, authorizing the destruction of human embryos and opening the door to the exploitation of women and fleecing of taxpayers. In the disparity between the amendment’s 96-word ballot title and its nearly 2,000 words of fine print, we see a fundamental deception that defies scientific facts and attempts to conceal the truth that the cloning process allowed by the amendment is the same one used to clone Dolly the sheep. In the campaign for this phony cloning ban, we see a calculated effort to brand principled opponents as ignorant fundamentalists and manipulate the desperation of the sick to promote research that has failed to produce even a single cure. In the arguments of amendment backers, we hear the echoes of a utilitarian ethic that tells us that the ends justify the means, that the strong and wealthy have a right to trample on the weak and poor, so long as they are stampeding toward a higher good.
The arguments for Amendment 2 employ the same might-makes-right logic that has led to history’s greatest atrocities. This logic seduces us with its apparent harmlessness, then shocks us when we see its consequences revealed in all their horror. When we find ourselves living in a culture of death — where human life has become a cheap and disposable commodity, where some persons are denied their right to life because they are smaller or younger or weaker than others, where catastrophic violence rips through our schools and assisted suicide is proposed as an answer to the suffering of our sick and elderly — we are stunned. We wonder: How did things get this bad? How can we turn it around? Isn’t there something we can do?
There is. Voters in Missouri, and in every state where embryonic-stem-cell research has become a campaign issue, can use this election as an opportunity to tell the world where we stand in the battle between a culture of life and a culture of death. When we are asked how we can look at the grainy image of a microscopic embryo and defend that little life with so much passion, we can answer that we do so out of the recognition that she looks exactly as a young human being should, exactly as each of us looked when we were her age, exactly as our own daughters and husbands and mothers and brothers looked in the first days of their lives. We can say that we are defending her because we know that only a society that recognizes her intrinsic dignity will recognize ours, and any society that treats her as a disposable commodity will someday treat us and our loved ones the same way.
When Missourians head to the polls on November 7, Americans will be watching to see how we appraise the value of embryonic human life. Will we decide that it is worth less than the phantom promises of big profits and miracle cures? Or will we draw a line in the sand and tell the world that we will go this far, and no farther: We will work for cures, but we will not sell our state constitution to the highest bidder and we will not support research that undermines the very principles that give meaning to our lives.
A defeat for Amendment 2, and for the candidates across America that champion the destruction of human embryos for research, would remind our nation of its founding truth: that all persons are created equal and endowed with an unalienable right to life. That right does not depend on their size or their strength, their age or their health. It is a gift from God. And no one — not a scientist or a celebrity, not even a senator or a billionaire — has the power to revoke it.
– Colleen Carroll Campbell, an NRO contributor, is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, and author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. Her new television show, Faith & Culture, airs weekly on EWTN.