MAHC launches campaign to defeat initiative
By Allen Palmeri
March 7, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – Doctors and scientists are going to be key advocates in a recently launched campaign by Missourians Against Human Cloning (MAHC) that is designed to ignite grassroots support to defeat a proposed ballot initiative that would amend the state’s constitution to allow cloning human embryos.
In a fly-around media tour Feb. 27, MAHC took its message to four Missouri cities. In separate events at St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Jefferson City, the newly hired MAHC executive director, Jaci Winship, introduced three of the MAHC board members—two doctors and a registered nurse—and fielded an assortment of questions from reporters and the general public. The MAHC experts wound up speaking late in the afternoon in the House of Representatives Bingham Lounge at the Capitol while about 15 pro-life lawmakers stood in the background.
“Supporters of the initiative have tried to redefine the term cloning and separate it from somatic cell nuclear transfer despite the fact that in medical and scientific publications these terms are completely interchangeable,” said Dr. Robert F. Onder of the Washington University School of Medicine. “Somatic cell nuclear transfer is cloning and a handful of influential Missourians should not be allowed to redefine this medical and scientific term and confuse and mislead Missouri voters.”
Onder’s fellow MAHC board member, Dr. Robert C. Dunn, a neurosurgeon, explained that adult stem cell research has been proven to be successful in treating more than 65 illnesses while embryonic stem cell research has yet to produce even one cure.
“It’s obviously important that physicians hold out hope to their patients, but to hold out false hope is really betraying our patient-physician bond,” Dunn said.
Barbara Quigley, executive director, St. Louis Center for Bioethics and Culture and a registered nurse, shared her concern that Missouri’s women will be exploited for their eggs if the ballot initiative passes. Quigley said there is a serious health risk involved for about four percent of the women participants in the process of ovarian hype-stimulation which is connected to the embryonic science.
Winship was asked if she will now settle into the same type of high-profile role as Donn Rubin, chairman and chief spokesman for the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. Rubin is frequently quoted in the Missouri media as the polished point man in a massive campaign that is backed by a heavily credentialed array of academic, political, business and media leaders. The establishment is expected to spend at least $15 million to secure the victory that their pollsters say is sure to come in the Nov. 7 general election.
“I’m not by any means somebody looking for a lot of publicity personally,” Winship said. “As you saw me do today, I might introduce it and I might tie it all up, but I’d rather you hear what the docs have to say. They’re the experts, and I think that a lot of times what they have to say is more important than what I have to say. I think a huge part of my job is to be the administrator/coordinator person who makes the effort go forward in a consistent way.”
Rep. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis who, along with Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, continues to stand firm in the political realm as a primary defender of the human embryo, said MAHC may only have to raise $1.5 million to succeed. Rodney Albert, chairman, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Christian Life Commission, said MAHC is worthy of financial support and that Missouri Baptists, if so led, ought to give to the cause.
“We believe that if we spend about 10 percent to what our opponents spend, that we’ll be able to play in the same arena,” Lembke said. “I think that when people see money pouring into this effort, when they see big checks going to the politicians, they’re going to wonder, ‘What’s behind this? What’s this all about? Maybe we should listen to this group of doctors and researchers and business people, just normal Missourians that really have a concern about what’s going on here.’”
MAHC has established its headquarters in Chesterfield with an office phone of (636) 536-9877. Its Web site is w ww.nocloning.org. Winship’s email address is j aci@NoCloning.org.
Despite polling “news” to the contrary that is being produced by the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, MAHC is asserting that eight out of nine Missourians oppose human cloning. Albert is glad to see that MAHC is now officially a player in the game. All Missourians will benefit from this.
“They are going to reach people Missouri Baptists are not going to reach,” Albert said. “This group is taking a message to Missouri in general. The euphoric supporters of this amendment, that it’s all about cures, need to be countered. If the truth gets out, this amendment will die.”