Friday, October 27, 2006

Dear Fellow Catholic Missourians

It has saddened me deeply the past few weeks as I have overheard a number of conversations among fellow Catholics concerning the proposed Amendment 2 that will be on the ballot in Missouri this November. These conversations indicate that despite a dedicated effort by our Bishops, Priests, and many concerned laypersons, many Catholic Missourians are still being misled about the true nature of Amendment 2 and what it entails. If you haven’t had time yet to consider the remarks of your Bishop or your Pastor concerning the high stakes of Amendment 2, then I humbly ask that you will at least take a few moments to reflect on the concerns of a fellow layperson.

In short, Amendment 2 is a bad initiative; not only because it entails unethical procedures, but also because its authors and advocates are purposely being deceitful about its content. As Edmund Burke is often quoted, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” Perhaps no other time in recent Missouri history has there been such an occasion as next November 7th that good people must stand up and do something.

As residents of the Show Me State, we should be proud of our long-standing cultural tradition of reserved pragmatism. We don’t fall prey easily to slick sales promotions and trumped-up marketing campaigns, just as Missourians of an earlier era were well known for their wise reservations concerning itinerant con men peddling miracle cures and other panaceas. Show me. Give it to me straight. What’s in the fine print? This is our heritage, and it has served us well.

Although numerous advertisements requesting our “Yes” vote on Amendment 2 this November have been carefully produced to demonstrate that the amendment has good intentions and would benefit Missouri, a careful reading of the amendment itself shows otherwise. In short, we are about to be taken on some snake oil. There is no more important time to call upon our “Show Me” heritage and take a close look at the fine print.

At its core, the passage of Amendment 2 would allow for public funding of cloning human beings in order to harvest their stem cells for research. Yet the authors of Amendment 2 (who happen to be lawyers for the huge biotech corporations that would receive this funding) claim that the amendment actually bans human cloning. How is this possible? Simple—by just arbitrarily changing the definition of cloning and then “ban” this phony definition. See section 6, part 2 of the amendment for this false definition of cloning.

The procedure utilized to clone a human being, or any mammal for that matter, is called “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer.” This is accomplished by combining a female egg cell with the nucleus of another living cell. The result is a cloned embryo. For their research purposes, these biotech firms will then destroy these embryos in the process of harvesting their stem cells. Amendment 2 most certainly does not ban this practice—to the contrary, it legalizes and protects it.

What the amendment does “ban” is the implantation of an already cloned human embryo into the uterine wall—which is pointless anyway because the authors of the amendment never intended to do that. They don’t want to implant human embryos in a uterus; they just want to destroy them to get at the stem cells. Even the National Academies of Science and the American Medical Association agree that Amendment 2 doesn’t ban human cloning—because it does no such thing. Amendment 2 only bans the implantation of already cloned human beings.

Furthermore, the advocates of Amendment 2 claim that it does not allow the purchase and harvesting of human egg cells by powerful biotech corporations for stem cell research—as they are certainly aware that thoughtful Missourians would be concerned that such a “market” would unfairly exploit poor and vulnerable women. Once again though, the devil is in the details. Although the biotech corporations may not be allowed to purchase egg cells from female donors, the amendment places no such restriction on fertility clinics. These clinics could offer lucrative incentives to women in need to harvest their egg cells and then make their own huge profits by selling these ova to the biotech corporations. In turn, the corporations could reap millions in tax-payer funding. Not unlike many questionable practices in the world, if you want to know the true intentions of the key players—follow the money trail.

To make matters worse, the process of extracting egg cells is difficult and has the potential for serious health risks for the donor. First, the woman is given large amounts of hormones and fertility drugs to induce her ovaries to release up to 15 eggs at once. Over-stimulation of the ovaries in this manner can lead to future infertility and in some cases can even be fatal. To extract these eggs, the woman is sedated and a large needle is passed through the wall of the vagina. Though certainly an unpleasant and risky endeavor for the woman—the authors of Amendment 2 made sure to protect the biotech corporations from any unpleasant risks. The amendment includes loophole protection that would guard cloning researchers from legal responsibility if women are injured or die while selling their eggs. Amendment 2 classifies as illegal any attempt to create “disincentives” to stem cell research. What could be more of a disincentive than wrongful death litigation?

Those opposed to Amendment 2 are not opposed to cures being found for people suffering from terrible diseases. In fact, many people opposed to Amendment 2 suffer from these diseases themselves or have family members who do. What they are opposed to is deceptive tactics being used by powerful corporations to swindle tax-dollars out of decent and hard working Missourians. They are opposed to poor and vulnerable women being exploited by these corporations’ desire to turn a profit at the public’s expense. They are opposed to human embryos being created and intentionally destroyed on some CEO’s gamble that embryonic stem cell research might prove advantageous in the next fiscal year. They are opposed to people suffering from terrible diseases being given false hope by the insinuation that “if only we were allowed to harvest more stem cells from more embryos—we could find a cure for you.”

Patents for the cure of any of these diseases would mean huge financial gain for the corporation who discovers it—and, more importantly, for its investors. Normally, this would be an incentive for private investment, as it is for the millions of private dollars invested in industries such as computer software and pharmaceuticals. If they build a better program or discover a new indication for a drug, there can be a huge return on one’s investment. Yet the biotech industry feels compelled to go the public money route concerning embryonic stem cell research. Why? Perhaps because they are aware that private investors have begun to doubt the potential return on embryonic stem cell research. Much more promising results have already been identified using adult stem cells—ones that would not require the cloning and destruction of human embryos. Friends, neighbors, and co-workers can theorize and ponder all day long about the supposed benefits or downfalls of embryonic stem cell research, but investors don’t theorize and ponder—especially large investment brokers. They bet their money where there is the highest chance of return, and apparently not too many are betting on embryonic stem cell research.

Advocates of Amendment 2 would like Missourians to believe that this issue concerns those who want to find cures vs. those who don’t want to find cures, or even uncompassionate religious persons vs. compassionate researchers who only wish to help people who are suffering. Neither of these could be further from the truth. Amendment 2 is about powerful biotech corporations hoping to turn huge profits by legally exploiting poor and/or desperate women, exploiting sick and suffering people by giving them false hope, and cloning and destroying human embryos that have no one to advocate for them—and they plan do all of this with taxpayer funding. It is a classic example, on many levels, of the rich and powerful exploiting the poor and defenseless for financial gain.

I’m not asking anyone to believe this post at face value, just as I wouldn’t want anyone to take the word of the Amendment 2 advocates at face value either. I am simply asking that all Missorians get a copy of the purposely confusing and long-winded amendment—all five pages if you print it on a laser printer—and read it for themselves. Demand that the authors “show” you the true nature of Amendment 2 by not falling prey to their professional marketing campaign and advertisements and by studying the amendment for yourself. A copy of Amendment 2 can be downloaded from http://www.nocloning.com/. It is my sincere hope that in doing so a majority of Missourians will reject this deceitful initiative at the polling booth this November.

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