LIFE DIGEST: Mo. official OK's misleading ballot language again, pro-lifers say

WASHINGTON (BP)--There she goes again, pro-life advocates are saying of Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Carnahan announced Oct. 10 the ballot language for a potential constitutional amendment to ban the cloning of human embryos, and pro-lifers say it is erroneous and will mislead voters.

The language, as it will appear on a 2008 ballot if a petition drive achieves enough signatures, says the proposed amendment will "repeal the current ban on human cloning or attempted cloning." It also says the measure will "criminalize and impose civil penalties for some currently allowed research, therapies and cures."

Carnahan has turned the proposal on its head, amendment supporters say. The new amendment is not intended to rescind a ban on cloning to bring a baby to birth, they say, but to expand the prohibition to include cloning to produce an embryo for stem cell research, something permitted by last year's barely approved Amendment 2.

"This is sheer propaganda, and it's not even subtle," said Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council in a commentary for National Review Online. "Missourians deserve better than this."

Cures Without Cloning (CWC), the organization backing the proposed amendment, may go to court over the language, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Obviously we have some concerns about it. That's putting it mildly," said CWC spokesman Curt Mercadante, the newspaper reported.

Mindy Mazur, Carnahan's chief of staff, said the office is "absolutely confident that the summary language for this initiative is fair," according to the Post-Dispatch.

Opponents of Amendment 2, which protected embryonic stem cell research, said Carnahan's summary for that proposal in 2006 also was deceptive.

"She played this same game last year," Ruse said. "The ballot language she issued for Amendment 2 said the measure would ban human cloning. This ignored the fact that the fine print created a constitutional right to do somatic cell nuclear transfer, which is the scientific name for cloning and is the same procedure used to clone Dolly the sheep."

Extracting stem cells from any embryo, including a cloned one, results in the destruction of the tiny human being. Stem cells are the body's master cells that can develop into tissues and other cells, providing hope for the treatment of numerous afflictions. Embryonic research has yet to treat any diseases in human beings and has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals.

The release of the ballot language means supporters of the new amendment may circulate petitions to place it on next year's ballot.

The Missouri Baptist Convention is encouraging pastors and members of its churches to take part, according to The Pathway, the MBC's newspaper. The convention contributed $100,000 to last year's effort to defeat Amendment 2.

"I'm very proud of the Baptist involvement in the Cures Without Cloning coalition," said Rodney Albert, chairman of the MBC's Christian Life Commission and pastor of Hallsville Baptist Church, according to The Pathway. "It's simply an extension of that strong Baptist ethic -– life is sacred. These folks are showing that."

ABORTION STUDY QUESTIONED -- A new global survey of abortion that has been described as the most comprehensive to date is biased and based on uncertain statistics, pro-life leaders say.

The study reported abortion rates are comparable whether or not the procedure is illegal, implying banning abortion does little to keep a woman from having one, according to the International Herald Tribune. The survey was a joint effort of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Alan Guttmacher Institute, formerly affiliated with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

"What we see is that the law does not influence a woman's decision to have an abortion," said WHO spokesman Paul Van Look, the Herald Tribune reported Oct. 12. "If there's an unplanned pregnancy it does not matter if the law is restrictive or liberal."

The survey is flawed, pro-life leaders said.

Abortion often is illegal in developing countries, and recording accurate abortion data in those countries is impossible, said Stephen Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI). "Neither Guttmacher nor anyone else knows how many abortions have been performed worldwide in this year or any other year," Mosher said in a written statement.

Randall O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund told the newspaper, "These numbers are not definitive and very susceptible to interpretation according to the agenda of the people who are organizing the data."

The problem in developing countries is the poor state of health care, not the governmental policy on abortion, some pro-lifers said.

The WHO and Guttmacher "have equated the word 'safe' with 'legal' and 'unsafe' with 'illegal,' which gives you the illusion that to deal with serious medical system problems you just make abortion legal," O'Bannon said.

ROMNEY RULE REVERSED –- The state of Massachusetts has reversed a restriction on embryonic stem cell research instituted only last year when Republican Mitt Romney was governor.

The Public Health Council voted unanimously Oct. 10 to revise one sentence and repeal the regulation backed by Romney, now a leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination. All 15 members of the council were appointed by new Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, according to the Boston Globe.

The previous language, approved in August 2006, said embryos could not be created "with the sole intent of using the embryo for research," the Globe reported. Under that rule, scientists feared the use of stem cells from embryos created outside the state for research purposes could place them in legal jeopardy.


Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Allen Palmeri, associate editor of The Pathway, contributed to this article.

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