Politics & Policy

Blunt Talk

As a longtime reader, I am grateful to the editors of National Review Online for giving me this opportunity to set the record straight regarding the need to ban human cloning and to create a culture that values human life in my home state of Missouri and across our great nation.

Contrary to NRO’s May 23 editorial, I have not been fighting with my legislature about therapeutic cloning. The overwhelmingly pro-life House and Senate share my view that somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) does not involve the creation of new human life.

Legislation to criminalize this research was not passed and no self-named leader of pro-life opinion in our state has demonstrated that this research is cloning.

As a former state legislator and as governor, I have actively and vocally supported efforts to ban human cloning on both federal and state levels. For example, I opposed legislation recently passed by the U.S. House allowing the destruction of embryos created through in-vitro fertilization.

The efforts by the self-proclaimed leaders of the pro-life movement in Missouri are clouding what should be the most important goal of every pro-life American, protecting and defending the rights of the unborn.

The sad result of the tactics used in Missouri’s past legislative session by lobbyists who call themselves pro-life is the failure to pass pro-life legislation. These lobbyists opposed passage of pro-life bills that most Missourians support. The proposals would provide new barriers to taking minor children out of Missouri for abortions, to evade our parental notification law, and would set meaningful safety standards at abortion clinics.

Passing these laws will honor and strengthen our state’s values, but this is not the most important reason to pass new pro-life legislation. The most important reason is to reduce the number of abortions that occur in our state. I was astonished when some lobbyists who claim to be pro-life worked against pro-life bills. Why were they doing this? Incredibly, unborn children were being taken as hostages and deprived of new legal protections, so that lobbyists could seek “leverage” in a coming session for outlawing SCNT research. More than any other issue, the sanctity of human life must be above hostage-taking and political games. Unborn children are not bargaining chips. In my view, when we have the ability to enact new pro-life bills, it is morally imperative that we do so.

The bills blocked by anti-research lobbying would prohibit the transport of minors across state lines to obtain abortions without parental consent, and would mandate that abortion providers have clinical privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion site.

Because of my unwavering and fervent belief in the sanctity of human life, I intend to call a special session to enact legislation that will reduce the number of abortions in Missouri and protect innocent human life.

I reached my longstanding opinions on these issues after thoughtful deliberation and prayer. I will continue to do all in my power to honor and strengthen Missouri’s culture of life in spite of opposition from those who seek to cloud this issue for their own personal or political gain.

Gov. Matt Blunt

Jefferson City, Missouri

THE EDITORS REPLY: Many people–including such Republicans as Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch–support cloning human embryos for research, just as Gov. Matt Blunt does. Where Blunt stands almost alone is in combining that position with opposition to other forms of embryo-destructive stem-cell research. Our editorial noted that he had never explained the basis of his position.

Gov. Blunt’s letter suggests that he has no good answers.

The obfuscation begins in the opening lines, when Blunt suggests that NR mischaracterized the political situation in Missouri. We accurately noted that Gov. Blunt has fought pro-life legislators there over cloning. He successfully pressured Republican legislators to support it.

Blunt continues to mislead with the discussion of legislative “hostages.” Pro-life organizations opposed the weakening of pro-life bills to accommodate the biotech industry. That’s not evidence of unworthy “personal or political” motives. And even if the governor were playing it straight here, it would hardly make his position look better. If the pro-life groups were unreasonably adamant that anti-cloning provisions should be included, a governor who really supported the bill “fervently” could have let them have their way.

Gov. Blunt would have us believe that cloning isn’t cloning if he calls it SCNT, and that cloning doesn’t create a human life if he has prayed about it. But whatever we call the procedure in question, it creates a living organism of the human species. And in any case, the legislation the governor sank would have prohibited the “creation of a human being by any means other than by the fertilization of an oocyte of a human female by a sperm of a human male.” If the governor thinks that SCNT doesn’t create a human life–for some mysterious reason–he should have been able to support this bill.

Conservatives have many reasons to cheer the record the governor has compiled so early in office. His support for cloning is, however, dismaying. So is the fact that he is defending his position with nearly Clintonesque spin.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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