High brow biz interests begin fight for cloning
Petition drive for constitutional amendment expected
By Allen Palmeri
June 14, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures is expected to start a petition drive to protect embryonic stem cell research via a constitutional amendment that could wind up on a statewide ballot in 2006.
The coalition consists of major educational and business interests in Missouri who see no harm in promoting the controversial research (also known as cloning) at Washington University, St. Louis, and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City. Embryonic stem cell research, or cloning, involves killing the human embryo. Social conservatives, who have rallied the last four years behind State Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Raytown, in legislative attempts to ban cloning, are gearing up for a schismatic battle that pits big-business Republicans and clone-happy Democrats against pro-life advocates in both parties.
“The deck is stacked against us,” said Rodney Albert, chairman, Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission.
A check of the coalition’s website at www.MissouriCures.com indicates that various disease and patient advocacy organizations, medical, research and academic institutions, and civic, business, governmental and faith organizations are all supportive. The St. Louis Business Journal settled on reporting a list of eight “community leaders” behind the coalition – Sam Fox, Steve Brauer, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, John McDonnell, retired board chairman, McDonnell Douglas Corp., David Kemper, former U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton, Virginia Weldon and Bob Kelley.
“These are very dark days,” Albert said. “They’re smart people, and they have figured out how not to play a defensive game.”
And they have money. For example, Fox is said to have a net worth of more than $500 million. He is believed to be the top financial contributor in the state to Republican candidates.
The group also has support from much of the state’s major news media including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star, St. Louis Business Journal and Kansas City Business Journal.
Albert said the coalition’s very name should invite scrutiny.
“This organization, from the starting gate, understands that cultural wars are often won or lost based on semantics,” Albert said. “They are shrewdly choosing deceptive terminology from the beginning. They want to avoid, like the plague, what they are about, and that is cloning. The point is there presently are lifesaving cures through adult stem cell research. Why aren’t they pressing for the science, research and funding lines that we already know help with diseases and ailments?”
Bartle, who has spent many hours educating his fellow senators and the general public on cures derived from less-publicized and under-funded adult stem cell research, shares Albert’s befuddlement. Adult stem cells are plentiful and do not involve killing an embryo.
“They have this amazing ability to ignore the ability of adult stem cell research and what is going on,” Bartle said.
Albert said the coalition may spend upwards of $50 million to get what it wants. Public relations firms, like rivulets in a Jacuzzi, will spew forth streams of positive words, he predicted. Slick packaging of therapeutic language will become the norm as grassroots Missouri Baptists and Missouri Catholics, who make up the brunt of the forces opposing the coalition, will be spun left and right about “the potential” of embryonic stem cell research.
“This is going to be a very, very hard one,” Albert said.