Missouri lawmakers inch closer to a ban on human cloning
By Allen Palmeri
January 25, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Raytown, has succeeded in getting 18 sponsors, which is a majority, for Senate Bill 160 prohibiting human cloning, a bill that he has championed for four years with little, if any, encouragement from so-called pro-life leaders of both political parties.
Early in the General Assembly, pro-life groups are rallying around the Bartle bill and its House companion sponsored by Rep. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, which would make knowingly cloning a human being, a process sometimes called human embryo research, a Class B felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Lembke compiled 102 sponsors in the House last year only to watch the bill die in committee. Pro-life lobbyists blamed the influence of business-friendly House and Senate Republican leaders who are emitting similar signals this year. Gov. Matt Blunt, who campaigned as a pro-lifer committed to change the 12-year, pro-abortion bent of the governor’s office, has yet to say whether he will sign a ban on human cloning, but pro-life Missouri Baptists are hopeful he will.
Lembke, an elder in the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, St. Louis, was targeted for defeat in his House district on this issue but managed to win re-election by what he said was “the grace of God,”—specifically, 280 votes. He was asked how he would now argue the merits of the bill before his Republican superiors.
“I’m going to encourage them to do what’s right, not what’s expedient, not what’s good for our economy,” Lembke said. “We are elected by the people, and there’s bi-partisan support for this legislation. There has been for the last couple of years. I think that we need to show some leadership and get this thing done, and then move forward. I think that we can set the tone for the rest of the country by passing a piece of legislation here that will encourage ethical research.
“This is definitely the human rights issue of our day, and it’s very important that we act now because it’s not going to get any easier.”
Missouri is seeking to be the sixth state to ban human cloning, joining Michigan, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas. Bartle emphasized that adult stem cell research would not be affected by the ban.
“I have been accused by opponents of standing in the way of advances in science,” Bartle said. “This is ironic since I only propose to ban research that has not been proved to supply any medical cures but that clearly destroys a nascent human life. In fact, just the opposite is true. This session I will be proposing a program to encourage adult stem cell research. The overwhelming majority of medical successes are to be found in this field and it only makes sense that our state should actively promote it.”
Larry Weber, executive director and general counsel of the Missouri Catholic Conference, expressed the resolve of the pro-life lobbyists as they go about helping Bartle and Lembke this year. Weber views Bartle as a battle-tested general on this bill, remembering how courageous he was in the House in 2002 when he stood up against the leaders of his own party.
“The Catholic church in Missouri is determined to make sure that this threat to human life is ended before it gets a strong foothold in Missouri,” Weber said. “We understand that there are a lot of folks who don’t understand the science of this issue, or have been sold a bill of goods on human cloning, or have been told it doesn’t involve the creation of a human being, but science is very clear. We need to make sure that this threat to human life is terminated before it ever gets started.”
Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin and a member of Ballwin Baptist Church, said there is no reason why Bartle’s bill, of which Loudon is a co-sponsor, and Loudon’s Senate Bill 2 imposing civil liability for violating Missouri’s informed parental consent law, can’t both be passed in this session.
“There are probably only half a dozen people in the 34-member Senate who don’t respect life, and the people out there are asking, ‘Is it going to make a difference that we have this solid of a majority?’” Loudon said. “’Is this majority going to allow one pro-life bill now and then, or is this majority going to say we’re going to give serious debate to multiple pro-life bills?’”
Rep. Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra and a member of South Union Baptist Church, Maywood, is part of the 60-strong bi-partisan “yes” bloc in the House that is for the ban on human cloning, an issue that she passionately supports.
“I think the more people learn about it, and the more that people understand about it, the more folks will be comfortable with the bill,” she said. “Pro-life issues are not partisan issues.”