Sen. Matt Bartle battles to the bitter end as human cloning ban fails to get a vote
By Allen Palmeri
April 19, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Raytown, said his bill to ban embryonic stem cell research/human cloning isn’t going to go away just because the full Senate this year has so far failed to bring it up for a vote.
Bartle said that elections will ultimately override the inaction of legislative bodies. He pointed out that the two newest members of the Senate, Sen. Bill Alter, R-High Ridge, and Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, are with him on the bill, and voters did not punish them for their stances in April 5 special elections. Bartle is anticipating that his own Senate race in 2006 will hinge on this issue, based on the formidable influence wielded by pro-cloning Stowers Institute for Medical Research of Kansas City and Washington University of St. Louis.
“They’re under this silly assumption that if they take one politician out, the problem goes away,” Bartle said. “I look forward to the public debate with them in my upcoming campaign. The reality that they are ignoring is that this is front and center on the public policy debate all over the country.”
The Senate took up Bartle’s bill April 6. Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, a co-sponsor of the legislation, described it as some of the most riveting debates he has heard in a long time.
“I think the other side has been clever, but definitely there are big holes in their arguments,” Loudon said. “Matt did an absolutely stellar job of laying out the argument and making his case. The other side is trying to flush out and confuse. Frankly, I think it is a really sorry state when they try to ride this economic development argument on the backs of sick people – that sick people will be cured and get out of their wheelchairs.
“Really, at the root of this, it’s just economics. You’ve got powerful, moneyed interests at two institutions that want this done. If sick people are ever going to be healed through this process, California’s got $3 billion that says the cures are going to be developed out there. There’s no reason this has to be done in Missouri. So when you really cut through all the hyperbole, it’s all about dollars.”
Pro-life lobbyists said that anywhere from 2-4 so-called “pro-life” Republican senators were actually working against Bartle’s bill in what some observers described as a soft filibuster. In other words, the debate appeared to be honest but truly was not, sources said. In the end, pro-business Republicans triumphed when no vote was taken and the bill was placed on the informal calendar.
“I just wanted a vote, because I think with a vote, I would have won,” said Bartle, who has sponsored the bill each of the last four years.
Rodney Albert, chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission, said Bartle has distinguished himself time after time this year by standing firm for the ban on human cloning. The senator was even allowed by his church to deliver a 40-minute message on the issue one Sunday. It eventually went out on a DVD all over the state.
“He really took a beating from the Democrats and from many of his own party,” Albert said. “He is more than a courageous politician. He is our brother and fellow Missouri Baptist. He deserves our encouragement.”
Cindy Province, an MBC Executive Board member and nurse ethicist, said that the gains made this year in advancing the ban on human cloning will not be in vain if Missouri Baptists stick with it.
“I think Missouri Baptists need to continue to make their views known to the governor and to other elected officials,” she said. “I think there’s just no substitute for that. Missouri Baptists need to first of all educate themselves on the issue and then work to educate their elected officials. That’s crucial. And then we need to hold those elected officials accountable.
“I know many Missouri Baptists, myself included, do work for the candidates of our choice, and make our choices carefully in the voting booth. That’s part of our responsibility as Christians, and we need to keep that up.”
Loudon said that as the years go by, people will begin to realize that adult stem cell research is a much more hopeful way to go about the business of healing people than the controversial embryonic stem cell procedure. Adult stem cells do not require the destruction of an embryo (a human).
“They (embryonic stem cells) are volatile,” Loudon said. “They cause tumors. They are unstable. At the end of the day, I think that’s because God doesn’t want us using them.”