Doctors step up to lead coalition
JEFFERSON CITY—“Doctor, doctor, give me the news, I’ve got a bad case of lovin’ you.”—Robert Palmer
Doctors who love life are leading a broad-based coalition effort to pass a Missouri constitutional amendment in support of proven research and treatments for lifesaving cures. Some of these doctors are Missouri Baptists—like Rob Hanson, whose church home is Parkway Baptist in Creve Coeur—and many of the faces of the medical community can be seen on the campaign’s official website, www.mocureswithoutcloning.com, the electronic home of Cures Without Cloning (CWC). Others are more low-profile.
In a grassroots effort where many organizations like Missourians Against Human Cloning (MAHC) and denominations like the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) are contributing, one group seems authorized to “give me the news” when it comes to finding out what CWC is doing.
“We really want to send a message to the voters of Missouri that there are physicians whose lives are devoted to caring for and treating and curing patients who nonetheless have a tremendous difficulty dealing with the ethical aspects of human cloning as a means to try to find treatments and cures,” said Hanson, who specializes in pediatric cancer treatment, hematology, and oncology in St. Louis.
“We believe as a group that physicians hopefully represent a trustworthy body. In addition, it gives a new voice or a new face to the arguments. We as physicians have the ability to say authoritatively that we recognize the great benefits that stem cell therapies offer. I personally prescribe a lot of my patients for stem cell therapies in the form of bone marrow transplantation. Those are ethical therapies that are being used right now with tremendous success. We see that as an area where our attention should be focused.”
Kerry Messer, a member of the MBC Executive Board as well as the MAHC Board, said the leadership of individual doctors has energized a pro-life base that came within 49,000 votes of victory last year on Amendment 2, which gave constitutional protection to therapeutic cloning. The well-funded “cures” majority only managed 51 percent, with MAHC doing the bulk of the work to turn out 1,028,495 “no” votes.
“It’s a very exciting expression of the grassroots movement involved here,” said Messer, referring to the doctors. “We wanted to see a grassroots movement come out of the passage of Amendment 2, but it’s exceeded our expectations. A variety of people from the medical community have taken it upon themselves to come to us saying, ‘What can we do? How can we turn this tide?’
“Their conscience has clearly been pricked by the passage of Amendment 2, and they are asking for leadership roles. They want to do something about this.”
Messer said academic, business, science and media titans who oppose the CWC campaign and attempt to characterize it as rough around the edges are making a big mistake.
“Sometimes people think grassroots means lay people who may not understand a particular issue,” he explained. “In this case, this is a grassroots movement which by default now is being led by the people who understand the issue more than anybody from the secular medical community.”
Hanson said creating a life to destroy it, which is therapeutic cloning, “so clearly goes against what the Word of God tells us about the value of life that only He can create.”
Flipping the word “cures” around from the other side of the debate, which is where it was for Amendment 2, to the pro-life side this time has created a pivotal switch in momentum for doctors like Hanson who know how to articulate the CWC message.
“Every month that goes by, we hear more and more about stem cell research and stem cell therapy, including bringing to patients a whole new type of treatment opportunity,” he said. “So we really are able to truthfully say that stem cell therapies offer cures right now, and more and more with every passing week. That is critical, because the emotions on this run so deep.”
With doctors acting more and more like spokespersons, leaders like MAHC Executive Director Jaci Winship and Messer have stayed more in the background. Lori Buffa, a pediatrician from St. Peters who chairs CWC and helped launch the campaign Aug. 22 in Jefferson City, is an example of this new emphasis. And Buffa, of course, is a doctor.
“I think it’s so important for those individuals outside of immediate religious quarters to be able to see such a broad coalition,” Hanson said. “That’s part of the reason for having physicians so prominently featured in this campaign. It does really speak to the validity of what are we worried about here. It’s not just an ultra right wing kind of group that’s trying to do this. It’s a fundamental principle that’s at stake, and it’s a very broad cross section of individuals that stand in opposition to this.”
Missouri Baptists will hear about the initiative petition drive at the 173rd annual meeting of the MBC at Tan-Tar-A, Osage Beach, Oct. 29-31 (see related box).
“We need a contact person in every church,” Messer said.