Harris sponsors bill on exploiting women for eggs
By Allen Palmeri
April 4, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – Rep. Belinda Harris, D-Hillsboro and a member of the Morse Mill Baptist Church in Dittmer, is sponsoring a bill in the Missouri General Assembly that would make it a crime to procure human oocytes, or eggs, by coercion, payment, or valuable consideration for use in research, treatment or therapy.
Despite her lowly status as a woman lawmaker in the minority party, Harris is part of the family to Missouri Southern Baptist men like Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), and Rodney Albert, chairman of the CLC. As such, they support House Bill 2087, and they know that Harris is more than just a simple legislator in that she chairs the Missouri House Democrats for Life Caucus.
Messer and Albert are part of a greater MBC that is on the record as a vigorous defender of Missouri’s women in the embryonic stem cell research debate, an ongoing controversy that could lead to constitutional protection for an exploitive brand of “science” in the state. An unknown quantity of eggs would need to be harvested to produce even one viable stem cell line if a proposed ballot initiative to protect cloning research in Missouri is passed in November. Messer told The Pathway March 31 that he has worked on the Harris bill, which would shut down “egg factories” and give Missouri voters a reason to doubt the wisdom of the clone lobby as it barrels its way toward potential petition approval in May and ballot box positioning in November.
“Eggs are only going to be coming from the female, so what are we doing to protect these women?” Harris asked rhetorically from her farm home in Ware during a March 31 telephone interview. “Are these women going to be taken advantage of? If someone’s in a poor financial strait, are they going to be lured into doing something that they aren’t really realizing how this is going to affect their health?”
Harris has a Republican girlfriend, in a legislative sense—a woman who is helping her in the Capitol with this ambitious project. Her girlfriend is Rep. Therese Sander, R-Moberly. Sander is Catholic.
“Therese Sander is always right there with me,” Harris said.
Their goal is to get a hearing.
“People don’t understand exactly how this is going to play out,” Harris said. “They’re so focused on this other life science and what good it’s going to do to help those that have disabilities, but they’re not really going and seeing how the mechanics of this is going to come about.
“Who’s donating all these eggs? How many eggs do they really need? People haven’t been looking at the long-range effects. I think my bill is going to bring awareness to this.”
Every good Missouri Southern Baptist has a good Missouri Southern Baptist pastor behind him or her. That man for Harris is Jim Johnston, who has ministered to the flock at Morse Mill since 1972.
“He’s been extremely supportive,” Harris said. “After church, he always says, ‘Belinda, I know you’re going through such battles with the Republican party.’ He says that he really believes in praying for me and my family during this time, because it is a struggle to kind of speak up on some things that are, right now, not even a party issue.”