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Coalition Proposes Constitutional Amendment

October 11, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Stem-cell research would have consitutuional protection under a proposed amendment by a coalition of researchers and patient adovcacy groups on Tuesday.

The initiative would permit stem cell research and treatments allowed by federal law to be practiced in Missouri.

The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures drafted the proposal to fight earlier legisltaive efforts to ban stem-cell research.

"We believe that Missouri patients should have the right to access any cures and treatments that their counterparts in other states have access to," said Donn Rubin, chairmen of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. " Our measure does not promote one type of stem-cell research or therapy over another, but rather the basic approach is that any stem-cell research therapies or cures allowed under federal law and available in other states should be allowed in Missouri as well."

Some Missouri politician's attempted to criminalize Missouri citizens who use stem cells created through somatic cell nuclear transfer to treat their injuries or diseases.

The process of a somatic cell nuclear transfer involves extracting the nucleus of an unfertilized egg and replacing it with the nucleus of a somatic cell (a non sperm or egg cell). This altered egg would then be stimulated to grow and produce embryonic stem cells.

Senator Chuck Graham, D- Columbia said he is eager to support the initiative.

"I think it is a necessary step at this point, legislation will always keep coming to ban stem cell research and I think we need a proactive approach to secure the ability to perform this life saving and life enhancing research in our constitution," Graham said.

Opponents of embryonic stem-cell research say the initiative would allow for cloning and is not necessary to find cures for diseases.

"They are trying to deceive the general public with terminology," said Susan Klein, Legislative Director for Missouri Right to Life." When in reality what they are asking in the petition is for the Missouri citizens to approve the cloning of human embryos for the intent and purpose of killing those human embryos."

However, Dubin says that initiative does not permit human cloning.

"Our measures striclty bans human cloning to, create babies. It puts in place severe penalties for even attempting to clone a baby but at the same time it protects life-saving stem-cell research."

State senator Matt Bartle, R- Jackson Couty, tried to pass a bill last legislative session that would making cloning human beings illegal. Bartle said he thinks the proposed amendment is a huge mistake because it would effectively wave the state's right to pass its own stem cell laws.

"They're wanting Missourians to tie their Missouri Constitution to what a judge in California, Florida or New York might say," Bartle said. "I think Missourians are probably going resists turning over that kind of authority to judges in states that have very different ideas about law than Missouri."

State senator Joan Bray, D-St. Louis said going to the voters is the best way to protect stem cell research in the state.

"We need to lift the dark cloud over Missouri that's unfriendly to researchers, and a Republican legislature is not going to let that happen."

The coalition needs at least 139,000 signatures before Missourians can vote on the proposed amendment. Proponents would like the amendment to be on the November 2006 ballot, however, Gov. Blunt could pick an earlier date.