Politics & Policy

Red Flags Over Missouri

Amendment 2 is not about hope.

Because I hope to walk again and for others not to suffer needlessly, I ask the people of Missouri to vote “No” on Amendment 2 next Tuesday .

“Missouri’s Amendment 2 has nothing to do with human cloning, right?” asked David Jones, a St. Louis native who explained to me that he and his girlfriend only want to understand this amendment so they can “do the right thing.”

I met Mr. Jones at dusk a few nights ago while pushing my wheelchair through a nature preserve outside Colorado Springs. As I approached the top of a long climb to a local attraction called the “Balancing Rock,” a friendly voice called from the gloom, “Can I give you a hand?”  

When David learned of my activism in stem-cell issues, he complained: “We don’t know what to believe in Missouri. Everything we hear seems to say the opposite thing.”

David and the people of Missouri should be confused — they’re being badly misled by experts who know what buttons to push to control the public. Nor is this the first time I’ve encountered exploitive hype in the Show Me State.

I first became involved in stem-cell issues when I read in 2002 that actor Christopher Reeve had been misled into making scientifically false and misleading statements to the U.S. Senate in support of embryonic-stem-cell and human-cloning research — statements that Reeve twice attributed to an embryonic-stem-cell scientist who was then at the Washington University of St. Louis. Until that time I had supported embryonic-stem-cell research.

However, Reeve’s testimony on March 5, 2002, concerning spinal-cord injury, stem cells, and human cloning, cast the embryonic-stem-cell and human-cloning debates in a totally different light.

‐ What if crucial time and money were wasted to needlessly develop replacement cells from embryonic sources? (This is exactly what is happening.)

‐ What if the Senate and the public believed that replacement cells could be safe for medical use only if produced through cloning (which Reeve had been led to believe)?

‐ What if similar misrepresentations were taking place regarding other areas of science and regarding other medical conditions (which I soon discovered were occurring)?

For me, the “stem cells and cloning” debates suddenly became far more complex than “religion versus cures.” Because my medical condition was being used to mislead the Senate, I felt that I had been used and betrayed.

Missouri’s Amendment 2, which will be decided in November’s election, has everything to do with cloning. Contrary to its wording, which claims to ban human cloning, Amendment 2 creates a constitutional “right” in Missouri for scientists to create human embryos through cloning — a process called “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer” or SCNT in the amendment — then to destroy the embryos for their cells. This process, SCNT, was the same process used to create Dolly the sheep.

Supporters of Amendment 2 claim the amendment bans “human cloning” because it would make it illegal to implant a cloned embryo in a woman’s womb. In other words, if the people of Missouri vote in favor of Amendment 2, they’ll in effect be agreeing that embryos created through cloning with human genetic material are not “human” provided they’re not implanted in women. Moreover, the amendment has no provisions against growing human clones in artificial wombs, which scientists hope to produce in the future.

The supposed purpose of Amendment 2 is to promote and protect “life saving” treatments and cures. Rather than supporting this contention, overwhelming scientific evidence clearly reveals the reverse — that diverting colossal resources for decades to unravel complex problems linked to embryonic stem cells and human cloning will considerably delay research into real causes for medical hope.

Virtually everything the people of Missouri have been told about embryonic stem-cells and human cloning in support of Amendment 2 has been distortions or lies. A real ban on human cloning would read like this: “It is illegal in the state of Missouri to transfer human genetic material from any cell other than sperm into an egg for the purpose of creating an embryo.”

Instead, Amendment 2 confuses the public by proclaiming to ban what it actually sanctions — what it hopes to turn into a constitutional right. This by itself should warn the public that something is badly amiss.

Amendment 2, if passed, will create a safe harbor for human cloning in America’s Heartland. More than that, it will insure that the public pays for both the creation and destruction of human embryos produced by cloning for the sake of research careers, biotech patents, industry growth, and pharmaceutical profits — all at the expense of practical research that could lead to affordable cures.

I urge the people of Missouri to consider the wisdom of using disease and disability as pretexts for industry growth. Those opposed to Amendment 2 on moral grounds believe, with just cause, that sickness and disability are being used as pretexts for exploiting human prenatal life. From where I’m sitting, embryonic, fetal, and human-cloning research is far more likely to offer long-range funding benefits to researchers than medical benefits to patients. In fact, I believe that the push in these directions by research-related industries will exploit us all.

As I said, because I hope to walk again and for others not to suffer needlessly, I ask the people of Missouri to vote “No” on Amendment 2 on Election Day.

 – James Kelly, who was paralyzed in a 1997 auto accident, Kelly directs the Cures1st Foundation, Inc., which promotes the effective use of public and nonprofit research resources.


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