COLUMN: Reading between the lines of a Missouri amendment

By Tyler Friederich

In case you missed it, Michael J. Fox appeared in a devious yet effective commercial campaign ad that aired during game two of the World Series in favor of Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill and her views toward stem cell research, which are propagated by her support for Amendment 2.

Amendment 2, which will be subject to a vote on Nov. 7 by Missourians, seems explicably straightforward as it apparently supports embryonic stem cell research and a ban on cloning. Here we have two subjects of debate. First, Fox’s appearance in the political ad highlights the subversive tactics perpetuated by a clever Democratic candidate. Second, the actual content of the amendment contradicts the proposed benefits and rhetoric emanating from the left.

The Senate race in Missouri is among the most watched in the nation as incumbent Republican Jim Talent fights for his political survival against challenger and current Missouri auditor Claire McCaskill. Missouri, historically a solid red state, is integral to the overall Democratic objective of regaining control of Congress. Among the issues that Talent and McCaskill firmly disagree on is embryonic stem cell research. Alas, Amendment 2 has reared its ugly head and is serving as the centerpiece of the stem cell debate.

In the ad that appeared just a few days ago, Michael J. Fox sternly talked to the camera with the full effects of Parkinson’s disease ominously present as his body violently shook from side to side. After he called for Missourians to support Claire McCaskill, he ended with the statement, “What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans – Americans like me”, an obvious reference to Amendment 2.

Unfortunately, Mr. Fox has been used as a pawn – his illness is being exploited for the purpose of not only getting his preferred candidate elected, but also of the passage of an unethical amendment. Yes, he willingly participated in the ad. But I personally have to wonder whether or not he actually read the amendment to which he alluded.

Claire McCaskill and the supporters of Amendment 2 continue to convey the myth that cloning will be prohibited in Missouri – this is simply not the case. According to American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, cloning is defined as “the transplantation of a nucleus from a somatic cell into an ovum, which then develops into an embryo” – also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. This is precisely the method used to clone Dolly the sheep. But the amendment defines “cloning” as an “attempt to implant in the uterus anything other than the product” of the fertilization of an egg and sperm.

So what exactly does Amendment 2 ban? It actually bans reproductive cloning – the result of taking the cloned embryo from somatic cell nuclear transfer and putting it into a uterus for development. The amendment defines “cloning” as an “attempt to implant in the uterus anything other than the product” of the fertilization of an egg and sperm. Therefore, under the amendment researchers can clone embryos – they just can’t implant those embryos into a uterus for the development of a human being. Instead they will destroy those embryos after their research has been completed. James Battey, chair of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force, asserted, “The first step, the cloning step, is the same, but the intended result is different” – that result being the death of the embryo.

Apparently politicians are willing to do just about anything to get elected, and celebrities are just as eager to participate in the debauchery to sway public opinion. To be fair, celebrities such as Patricia Heaton, Kurt Warner and Jeff Suppan will appear in a political ad against Amendment 2 – but at least Kurt Warner and Jeff Suppan are a part of the Missourian community.

If there is one lesson to be learned, it is that you can’t take anything at face value – even if a disease-stricken Michael J. Fox tells you to. Read the amendments which are proposed, and do not be tricked by emotion and broad statements when logic, reason and the small print advise you otherwise.