Cloning ban bill losing momentum as April debate, possible vote nears
MBC lobbies for pro-life position
By Allen Palmeri
March 22, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – Frustration continues to mount among pro-life representatives, senators and lobbyists who see legislation to ban embryonic stem cell research/human cloning languishing in the General Assembly.
Senators hope to debate Senate Bill 160 the first full week of April, but some pro-life representatives are already trying to take matters into their own hands. Two members of the Democrats for Life Caucus, Rep. Belinda Harris, D-Hillsboro, and Rep. Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra, have tried to amend separate House bills with language that would ban cloning. Both times they have been rebuffed by House Republican leadership.
“It’s an issue we’ll have to keep fighting for as the session moves forward, because it’s simply not moving forward, and that’s disappointing,” said Bringer, who is a member of South Union Baptist Church, Maywood.
Harris, a member of Morse Mill Baptist Church, Dittmer, chairs the 28-member caucus of House Democrats who are battling to have Missouri become the sixth state to ban cloning.
On March 8, about 20 pro-life organizations came to the Capitol to lobby legislators to pass the ban. Several Missouri Baptists participated, including Trevor Yoakum, pastor, East Sedalia Baptist Church, Sedalia. Yoakum headed straight for the governor’s office where a cordial and polite staff member told him Gov. Blunt will veto SB 160.
“She just said, ‘While the governor is a pro-life candidate, he has stated that he will veto Senate Bill 160,’” Yoakum said. “She said the basis of his veto decision would be upon the bill’s language being too broad, and that essentially it would even ban adult stem cell research. My response to her was, ‘I think that’s a dodge. What basis does that have to do, if anything, with embryonic stem cell research? The whole point here is the issue of life.’
“Essentially, if he is a pro-life candidate, and if he believes that basically life begins at conception, no matter how you use human embryos you’re terminating human life and that’s going to diminish your opinion of human life.”
Kerry Messer, lobbyist, Missouri Baptist Convention Christian Life Commission, said that pro-life citizens who blame the Republican majority for the lack of legislative movement on the cloning ban are falling into a trap.
“We need to recognize that every time we get in a major political battle that there are people who would love to focus on the partisan politics,” Messer said. “What we as Missouri Baptists must do is focus on the fact that this is spiritual warfare, and the enemy is Satan, the enemy is the world, and the enemy is the flesh. From that perspective, we fight the battle, we fight it with integrity, and whoever is on the wrong side is on the wrong side.
“It has less to do with partisan politics and more to do with whether we as Christians are engaged.”
Messer can remember a period of time at the Capitol when Democratic leadership was hostile toward promoting a culture of life. Even if Republicans fall into that same pattern of leadership right now, it still would not make them the bad guys, Messer said.
“Six years ago, the enemy was not the Democrats,” he said. “Today, the enemy is not the Republicans. The enemy is those who would seek to recruit legislative leadership to protect sin.”
Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Raytown, is the sponsor of SB 160. He has 14 Republican co-sponsors and 3 Democrat co-sponsors in what would be an 18-member majority on the issue if the vote went according to their sponsorship.