Lawmakers keep dismissing embryonic stem cell bills
By Allen Palmeri
April 18, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – Another session of the Missouri General Assembly is about to expire with no meaningful curbs or tangible guidelines being placed on the controversial science of embryonic stem cell research.
Lawmakers like Rep. Belinda Harris, D-Ware and a member of Morse Mill Baptist Church in Dittmer, are being told to stop trying to get a hearing for their bills. Harris is the sponsor of House Bill 2087, which would shut down cloning “egg factories” by making it a crime to procure human oocytes, or eggs, by coercion, payment or valuable consideration for use in research, treatment or therapy. The bill was heard in committee April 13.
“It’s kind of like, ‘I know that you’re trying to make some statements, but at least don’t make roll-call votes,’” Harris said. “I feel the public wants to know where all the legislators stand. A legislator can say one thing or another thing, but (when) they get a recorded vote on it, then they’re locked in. So I’ve had people say, ‘Stop doing that, Belinda, because you’re making it hard on us.’
“I feel like, you have to make a decision on everything up here, why not go ahead and make the decision now?”
Harris said she feels that if her bill passes, or if anything similar to her bill somehow were to gain traction before the close of the legislative session in May, there would be “a really loud scream” that would trigger vengeance.
“They would work hard to get those people out who have caused this industry to not flourish in the state of Missouri.”
The hope of the clone lobby is that its proposed ballot initiative to protect cloning research in Missouri is passed in November. Harris said she does not need campaign funds from the clone lobby.
“I don’t want to feel obligated to someone else,” she said.
Rep. Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra and a member of South Union Baptist Church in Maywood, has teamed with Harris in a seemingly fruitless quest to get a roll-call vote in the House on what may be the defining moral issue of our time. Bringer, an attorney, noted that the responsibility for the lack of a roll-call vote falls squarely on the shoulders of the majority party.
“I think it is thwarting democracy and thwarting the ability of this legislature to address this very critical issue,” Bringer said. “It’s once again, for the fourth year in a row, been very disappointing.
House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles and a member of First Baptist Church, Harvester, in St. Charles, said HB 2087 is good in concept but problematic in the “politically charged environment we are in.” He did indicate, however, that the political climate in Missouri on this issue may be shifting toward the defenders of the human embryo.
“I believe the initiative can fail as easily as it passes,” Bearden said. “If it does, the proponents should be prepared for some very concrete action from the Legislature that does, in fact, clearly ban what they want to do.”
Rep. Brian Baker, R-Belton and a staff pastor with First Baptist Church of Belton, is fed up like Harris and Bringer by the inaction of the majority party, his fellow Republicans, on this issue.
“People have bought into the idea that cloning is not cloning,” Baker said. “What’s interesting is that the process that they talk about is quoted by Stanford University and Harvard University in their official docum