Cloning exposes rift in Republican ‘marriage’
Explosive issue proves divisive for Democrats, too
June 14, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – The Republican Party in Missouri has flourished in the last three elections thanks to cooperation between fiscal conservatives, often called “pro-business” Republicans, and social conservatives, led by Missouri Baptists and Missouri Catholics who vote according to a biblical worldview.
Because of this marriage within the party, Republicans now control the General Assembly and the governorship for the first time since 1922. But in recent months there have been signs that the marriage is in trouble. At the center of this growing storm is Gov. Matt Blunt, who attends Second Baptist Church, Springfield.
Blunt refers to himself as “pro-life” and a “Southern Baptist,” as he did in a recent editorial published in The Springfield News-Leader. The governor is clearly anti-abortion and a defender of human life in accordance with his religious beliefs. However, he is strongly pro-business and the embryonic stem cell issue is putting him increasingly at odds with a powerful constituency – pro-life evangelicals and Catholics – who helped put him in office. Why? Because the governor does not believe destruction of the embryo is taking a life, allowing him to support the influential business interests linked to the push for embryonic stem cell research at Washington University, St. Louis, and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City.
Ironically, the governor’s position has put him at odds with his father, Republican Congressman Roy Blunt, who voted against an embryonic stem cell research bill in May and President George W. Bush, who has threatened to veto any embryonic stem cell bill. Both Roy Blunt and Bush favor adult stem cell research, which does not require the destruction of the embryo and actually holds more promise for medical research. Missouri Right to Life, National Review and conservative publications and organizations have pointed out that the governor holds to incongruent beliefs on life. Pathway Editor Don Hinkle was among the first to point out the governor’s inconsistent view on the matter and that has since been followed by a May article in National Review, considered the “bible” of conservative thought, criticizing the governor, calling his position “an incoherent mess.”
Despite the criticism, the governor remains undaunted. Sam Fox, a co-chairman of an Oct. 9, 2004, breakfast in St. Louis featuring President Bush that helped raise money for the Blunt gubernatorial campaign, has been described by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as the most generous Republican donor in Missouri. Fox, chairman of the Harbour Group in Clayton, is a major benefactor of Washington University, the Post-Dispatch reported, and a staunch advocate of unfettered research that would include cloning.
Fox, who is Jewish, and former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., are two of the more notable Republicans with Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, a pro-cloning organization. Another prominent Republican with the coalition is former Washington University Chancellor William Danforth.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is another high-level Republican supportive of the various business interests backing cloning in Missouri while proclaiming to be pro-life. Kinder, who has run for office on his record as an anti-abortion politician, is viewed by pro-life lobbying groups as a fiscal conservative. Kinder recently took the extraordinary action of calling for the ouster of Missouri Catholic Conference Executive Director Larry Weber, who has strongly argued against embryonic stem cell research/cloning.
Pro-business/cloning and pro-life Republicans have already clashed. A sweeping anti-abortion bill died in the final days of the General Assembly when some pro-life advocates objected to a provision stricken from the bill thanks to pro-cloning lobbyists from Washington University and the Stowers Institute. The provision that was eliminated stated that “it was the intention of the General Assembly of the state of Missouri to recognize and affirm the right to life of all humans, whether in utero or not … .” The action triggered a heated exchange between Republican leaders and Missouri Right to Life and the Catholic Conference. As a result, the entire bill died, handing the pro-cloning lobby an early victory. Blunt has since revived the bill and a good portion of it – minus the “in utero or not” statement – is expected to pass during September’s special session.
Republicans are not alone in the growing rift over cloning. Pro-life Democrats, like the 27-member Democrats for Life Caucus chaired by Rep. Belinda Harris of Hillsboro, a member of Morse Mill Baptist Church, and socially liberal Democrats are at odds over the issue as well.