Feminists join Southern Baptists in battle against human cloning in the name of science
By Barbara Shoun
JEFFERSON CITY – Feminists and Southern Baptists may seem like any unlikely alliance to some, but a growing number from both groups are joining forces in an effort to defeat a proposed amendment to the Missouri constitution that they see as a means of exploiting women.
Missourians Against Human Cloning (MAHC) is spearheading the battle against the “Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative” on which Missourians will vote Nov. 7. Passage of the initiative would allow taxpayer funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research.
Jaci Winship, MAHC executive director, said that “there is no protection in this amendment for women at all.” She says voters should be concerned about the risks to the health and lives of the young women whose eggs are used in the research.
An article in USA Today, published in March, quoted the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), which favors embryonic stem cell research, as acknowledging potential risks including nausea and diarrhea, shortness of breath and abdominal bloating, possible emotional problems, and “a remote risk of death.”
Jennifer Lahl, founder of Every Woman First, an international organization based in the state of California, is more specific about the risks.
“The root of this technology is the fact that we need women’s eggs. There have been no long-term or short-term studies,” she said.
“There are powerful, powerful drugs a woman has to take to suppress and then over-stimulate the ovaries. There are all kinds of side effects, and we know anecdotally that women have died.
“Yet, there is no concern for that egg donor. There is no follow-up. The woman is not tracked or monitored. She’s a number.”
One of the big concerns is about what effect the experimentation will have on the woman’s future fertility. “Let’s not sacrifice the future fertility of our young women on a pipe dream of future cures,” Lahl said.
Her organization has brought people together from various points of the religious and political spectrum. “While we may disagree on abortion, we are banding together on issues where we agree,” she said.
Every Woman First is sponsoring a campaign called “Hands Off Our Ovaries,” which is drawing a wide range of people who don’t want to see women’s bodies used as research – environmentalists and minorities as well as feminists and religious persons.
Lahl pointed out past instances where women have been treated with unproven drugs—such as Thalidomide—with disastrous results.
Cindy Province, co-founder of the St. Louis Center for Bioethics and Culture and a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board, has interacted with the group. She said it is an unusual alliance but it shows that the issue doesn’t break down along the normal pro-life line.
“We may differ on lots of other issues, but they are concerned about the exploitation of women…and so am I.”
The St. Louis Center for Bioethics and Culture has been studying the issue since its inception five years ago. She was publicly speaking about the dangers of egg donation long before it became a legislative issue.
“We, as Christians, have opportunities here,” she says. “We have opportunities to share the Gospel while we’re working on issues. These kinds of issues will drive us out of our comfort zone, but they give us opportunities we wouldn’t ordinarily have.”
MAHC Director Winship pointed out that passage of the constitutional amendment on stem cell research would not legalize the research. It is already legal and can be done with private funding.
The amendment would provide for the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. In fact, the bulk of the money already raised for passage of the amendment has come from one private medical research facility. Winship said legislators will be under pressure to divert public funds into the research if the amendment passes.
She also clarified the “egg donor” term. Technically, she said, no one ‘buys’ eggs, but a lot of payments are made. “Women are paid for their time, their medical expenses, and other things. However, it’s always called a ‘donation.’”
Winship noted that there is a lot of talk about cures, but embryonic stem cell research currently in progress – unlike adult stem cell research – has not yet produced a cure for anything.
Further information is available at the following websites: MAHC, www.votenocloning.com; St. Louis Center for Bioethics and Culture, www.stlcbc.com; www.handsoffourovaries.com; and the Focus on the Family website, www.votenocloning.com.