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Missouri will vote on cloning amendment to constitution

6 November 2006
Appeared in BioNews 383

A vote will take place this week in the US state of Missouri on proposed changes the State's constitution to allow all kinds of stem cell research to take place. The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative - also known as Amendment 2 - will permit so-called therapeutic cloning, dubbed 'somatic cell nuclear transfer' (CNR)  in the text, but bars 'cloning' by definition, which covers the implanting of a cloned embryo into a woman (reproductive cloning). The amendment will also permit women who donate eggs for research to be reimbursed for the cost of the procedure and lost wages. The buying and selling of human eggs is prohibited.

If voters approve the changes, it will make embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research part of the constitution, preventing the courts from being able to rule the technique unlawful. The amendment has been supported by Missouri's medical education institutions who are concerned with promoting equal access for patients to federally approved stem cell therapies and ensuring Missouri benefits economically from being able to conduct stem cell research.

The Missouri vote has turned into a political battle between Senate candidate Democrat Clair McCaskill, who supports ES cell research, and Republican Jim Talent, who rejects any research that leads to the destruction of embryos. Senator Talent issued a press statement saying that he will oppose the measure. 'I personally cannot support the initiative', he said, adding 'I've always been opposed to human cloning and this measure would make cloning human life at the earliest stage a constitutional right'.

Missouri is holding midterm elections for seats in the Senate. Jennie Bowser, policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislature, says that a nearly record high number of ballot initiatives were proposed by Americans this year, reflecting dissatisfaction with the government at state levels. ES cell research is pivotal in some of the races to the Senate, according to Peter Agre, founding member of Scientists and Engineers for America, and such is the case in Missouri. Stem cell research has become an issue in five 'tossup' states and most have candidates who are pitching against each other over the issue. He also suggested that 'this is not a Republican or Democratic issue' and Republicans are beginning to come round to realising the potential benefits of stem cell research.

The Democrat campaign for Amendment 2 sparked controversy last week when actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's and supports all forms of stem cell research, appeared in a TV advertisement saying, 'as you might know I care deeply about stem cell research. In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill who shares my hope for cures. Unfortunately, Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research. Senator Talent even wanted to criminalise the science that gives us a chance for hope'. The advertisement was helped along when right-wing talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh, later accused Fox of 'faking' his symptoms and 'acting' for the camera's benefit. Anti-ES cell campaigners have criticised the advertisement for deceiving viewers. They point out that Mr Fox does not distinguish between stem cell research without embryos, which is largely supported, and ES cell research, the focus of the advertising campaign. They say Senator Talent wanted to 'criminalise' CNR and not 'stem cell research'.

In related news, a Newsweek poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, showed that fifty per cent of Americans favour using taxes to fund somatic (adult) stem cell research, with thirty-seven per cent against. The poll also revealed that the issue ranked low in voters' priorities in comparison to issues such as Iraq, the economy, health care and terrorism.

The Missouri vote will take place on 7 November.

Michael J. Fox Campaigns for More Pro-Embryonic Stem Cell Research Pols
Life News |  1 November 2006
Stem cell divide in midterm elections
The Scientist |  1 November 2006
Stem-cell issue gains momentum in homestretch
The Washington Times |  2 November 2006
Stem cell issues splits candidates
Missourian |  1 November 2006
7 December 2009 - by Ben Jones 
A Missouri Republican State Representative has proposed legislation to block public spending on embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research in the state. The proposed amendment to the Missouri constitution called for an end to public funding of any research that involved the destruction of embryos. The pro-life Republican representative, Cynthia Davis, also included a ban on funding for abortion and any use of cloning technologies...
15 January 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The US House of Representatives has voted in favour of legislation to expand federal funding for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act 2007 was passed by 253 votes to 174, but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a...
8 January 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
An Associated Press-AOL News poll has recently indicated that 56 per cent of US adults support relaxing restrictions on using federal money to pay for embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The latest figures come as New Jersey pledges millions to support and expand ES cell research in...
4 December 2006 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
In the US, the Democrats have indicated that they will push for a vote on stem cell legislation which would permit the allocation of federal funding for research, previously vetoed by President Bush. Senate Majority Leader-elect, Harry Reid, who will take control of the Senate's agenda when...
13 November 2006 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
By Antony Blackburn-Starza: There's a feeling of change in relation to embryonic stem (ES) cell research in the US following the mid-term elections, which saw the Democrats capturing both the Senate and the House of Representatives from the Republicans. In the state of Missouri, where ES cell research was a...
21 August 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
Voters in the US state of Missouri will decide in the November ballot whether embryonic stem (ES) cell research should be allowed to take place in the state. The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative - or Amendment 2 - would amend the state's constitution to allow...
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