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Mo. initiative would ban human cloning

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Missouri Baptists are solidly behind a new initiative that seeks to ban human cloning in the state and overturn part of a controversial stem cell measure adopted by voters last year, Missouri Baptist Convention Interim Executive Director David Tolliver says.

The new initiative took its first step Aug. 22 when an official with Cures Without Cloning filed the proposed ballot language with the Missouri secretary of state. If state officials give the ballot language the OK, then the group can begin collecting signatures, with the goal of placing it on the 2008 ballot.

“We want the citizens of Missouri to know that the Missouri Baptist Convention is fully behind and in support of the Cures Without Cloning coalition,” Tolliver told The Pathway, the newspaper for Missouri Baptists. “We’re a part of the coalition and intend to participate in every way we can.

“We are 100 percent pro-life…. We’re for cures in scientific research — but without cloning.”

Last year Missouri voters passed a constitutional amendment, 51-49 defeat, protecting embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) and therapeutic cloning. Supporters of the amendment claimed the amendment banned cloning, although the text of the amendment itself said the initiative would protect “somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT),” the scientific name for cloning. In reality, the amendment simply banned reproductive cloning while protecting therapeutic cloning. SCNT is the same procedure that produced the cloned sheep, Dolly.

The proposed constitutional amendment by Cures for Cloning would not overturn the entire amendment from last year, but only the portion that protects cloning.

Reclaiming the word “cures” is intentional. One of the painful lessons learned in defeat last year, a person working with Cures Without Cloning said, is that the coalition needs to focus on what it is for; the new initiative is an attempt to do just that.

Last year supporters of embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning rallied under the banner of the “Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.” Opponents fell short of victory by just 49,000 votes out of 2.1 million cast, despite the fact opponents spent $30 million on advertising.

Rodney Albert, chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission, said his first impression of the new name is positive.

“Missouri Baptists have contended, along with pro-life Missourians, that cures in our state and throughout the nation can be achieved without cloning,” Albert said. “Now secular science continues to assert that, and to give us proof that we can achieve real cures in this country against real diseases without cloning.”

Lori Buffa, a pediatrician from St. Peters, Mo., is the face of Cures Without Cloning. She held court for a swarm of media Aug. 22 just outside the secretary of state’s office, where she, as CWC chairwoman, filed the proposed ballot language.

“I am not here as a paid spokesperson or because I have a political agenda,” she said. “I am here as part of a statewide coalition of doctors, academics and citizens who are joining with us together in this effort to support proven research and treatments for lifesaving cures by prohibiting human cloning in Missouri.”

Buffa explained why the initiative is needed.

“As a physician, I am familiar with stem cell research, with medical journals, and it is undisputed in the medical community that somatic cell nuclear transfer is the process of human cloning,” she said. “That is undisputed. The language that’s currently in the constitution is very confusing, and we’re here to clarify that.”

Last year’s constitutional amendment, which went by the name of “Amendment 2,” had approximately 2,000 words; the CWC initiative has only 187. Buffa called it very simple, clear, narrow and straightforward.

“It’s not complicated,” she said.

Assuming the proposed amendment is OK’d by the state, it would need to get enough signatures from “registered voters to equal 8 percent of the votes cast in each of six of Missouri’s nine congressional districts in the last gubernatorial election,” the Missourian newspaper reported.

Information about the new amendment is available online at www.mocureswithoutcloning.com
Adapted from an article by Allen Palmeri of the Missouri Pathway, online at www.mbcpathway.com

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