Politics & Policy

2 Bad for Amendment 2

Some real hope in a overhyped campaign.

If you’re anything like me, it’s not inconceivable you would lose a little sleep over the prospect of a Speaker Pelosi and a Majority Leader Reid. And if you’re anything like me, then your life has not exactly been overflowing with good political news lately.

#ad#Enter the Show-Me State, with a light at the end of a long election-season tunnel, and a great opportunity for coalition building — folks who rarely stand side by side working together.

Missouri right now is the latest Brave New World battleground, as voters will face Amendment 2, a ballot initiative that would write a right to human cloning into the Missouri constitution.

As in California and New Jersey before it, cloning advocates hope to dupe Missouri voters with their humane but disingenuous talk of hope and cures to debilitating and deadly disease. A Missourian wouldn’t have to be a lazy, ignorant fool to think Amendment 2 had absolutely nothing to do with cloning — or, even better, actually banned human cloning. As it happens, in fact, anyone paying attention to the official amendment summary could be easily fooled. By means of a redefinition of cloning and other doublespeak, cloning advocates (in Missouri and elsewhere) are trying to get folks to believe that cloning only happens if you end up with the stuff of a sci-fi-movie plot — raising a cloned child; it doesn’t count, they say, when you just clone an embryo. If it’s just clone and kill, early and often, then it’s something else entirely different from cloning, they claim.

For most people — never mind politicians — the science is pretty complicated, but the principles involved, when laid out truthfully are fairly straightforward. Getting the truth out in an environment of hopeful hype and scientific muddle, however, is no small order. Still, despite being wildly overspent (to the tune of just under $30 million to $3-$5 million), in recent days a fresh wind of hope has blown through the virtual war rooms of anti-cloning activists. As of early this week, internal poll numbers show that the “Definitely Yes” vote on Amendment 2 — folks who would vote for cloning — has dropped 13 points in the last month, as people start to pay attention. “They are barely at 52 percent now, and about to slip underwater,” a source working on the anti-Amendment 2 campaign tells National Review Online.

Why the confidence? After all, in 2004, for instance, a cloning initiative was a near-no-contest win in California, even after some loud last-minute publicity from the opposition (from actor Mel Gibson, as it happens). The reason is that, in Missouri, anti-cloning activists may have hit on the perfect strategy. To reach normal busy people who don’t have time to get into the science and ethics, their simple message is that this is simply too tricky — the website is 2tricky.org. “Amendment 2 is deceptive, with more than 2,000 words of fine print,” a TV ad states. “They say it bans human cloning, but that’s not true. Amendment 2 specifically protects human cloning for research.” It continues, “The fine print even protects the buying and selling of human eggs.” The ad ends “Vote no on Amendment 2. Too slick, too deceptive, too tricky.”

The message: You don’t have to decide your position on the science. You don’t even have to understand the science. Just know that this is a complicated initiative with some loaded implications and that you’re not getting the full story. There’s no reason to rush into changing the Missouri constitution because folks with oodles of money want you to.

This approach from activists opposed to Amendment 2 has nothing with “anti-science” scare tactics. It’s simply practical: Odds are that, with less than 20 days before the election, activists wouldn’t be able to win over voters with explanations about the ethics of somatic-cell nuclear transfer (cloning). But “Hey, you’re being lied to and there’s no reason we should rush into this radical and unnecessary constitutional change” — yeah, that might give the average voter pause. And that’s just what’s happening here: If the opponents of Amendment 2 aren’t focusing primarily on the science and ethics, at least they’re not obscuring and misrepresenting the issues, as the advocates are.

The 2tricky approach is one that could win this electoral battle — coupled with the fact that it’s not just the usual suspects (i.e., pro-life activists) who are against Amendment 2 and measures like it. Just this week, a hearing was held at the United Nations. It related to the buying and selling of human eggs mentioned by that anti-Amendment 2 commercial. The speakers at the hearing included both friends of mine and liberal feminists. Since cloning promises to exploit women, as it necessarily requires their eggs, there is natural alliance between anti-cloners and traditional feminists on this issue. Organized by the United States delegation, the event was meant as an opportunity to highlight that the issue gives rise to alliances that cross political lines. As one participant, Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (who has a great overview of the Missouri amendment elsewhere on NRO today), relayed, “Each of us talked about some particular facet of the issue, but all agreed that attempts at SCNT would create dangerous new demand for more eggs, and in turn for applying pressure on women to ‘donate’; and that hype about the state and prospects of stem-cell research was adding to that pressure in disturbing ways.”

A “yes” vote on Amendment 2 in Missouri on Election Day 2006 would be a “yes” to a state constitutional right to human cloning, putting cloning research above the reach of further state regulation. That’s unnecessary and dangerous. A “no” vote on Amendment 2 is a “no” to a dangerous rush toward a Brave New World. Missourians don’t have to become scientists before November 8; they just have to know that they don’t know enough to be signing away citizen oversight to an industry that can’t play it straight when asking for their votes, but instead inundates them with unfair emotional pleas (e.g., Michael J. Fox with Parkinson’s, Sheryl Crow with cancer, etc.).

In California and New Jersey especially, cloning has gotten an imprimatur without there first having been an actual debate — often without the word “cloning” having been used. The simple fact of the matter is that Amendment 2 is too tricky. And with three weeks before Election Day, anti-cloning activists may, for once, have a winning strategy. If the “no”s win, human life wins, at least for now, at least in Missouri — and it would be a timely signal to other states to take a deep breath before buying all the false hope and hype.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

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