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Thu, March 21

Missouri amendment would allow cloning

"I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." -- U.S. Rep. Willard Duncan Vandiver, 1899.

Vandiver's words spoken more than a century ago helped popularize his home state's unofficial designation as the "Show-Me State.'' Whether they still hold true faces a test Nov. 7 when voters try to wrap their minds around a stem cell amendment that is long on "frothy eloquence'' and short on "show me.''

To be clear: Approval of "Constitutional Amend-ment 2'' would mean ap-proval of a constitutional right to clone.

Yet, when voters go to the polls, that's not what they'll read on the ballot. Instead, they'll vote on a bullet-point summary of the 2,100-word amendment that reads like a pro-life manifesto blended with progressive compassion.

Among other things, the ballot promises: to ensure that people in Missouri have access to cures and therapies; to ban human cloning; and prohibit state and local governments from interfering with lawful research.

As for cloning, no one should be surprised to hear that it depends on what one's definition is. By using less-familiar scientific language, supporters of the stem cell initiative effectively have redefined "cloning'' to mean only reproductive cloning -- that is, implantation ofa lab-created embryo ina woman's womb for the purpose of creating a hu-man being.

While the amendmentwould ban that procedure,it would allow "somatic cell nuclear transfer,'' which is the widely ac-cepted scientific definition of "cloning.''

Another controversial piece of the amendment, which the ballot summary does not mention, concerns the sale and purchase of human eggs for stem cell research.

Although the proposedamendment purports toforbid such sales, it in-cludes a loophole: Re-searchers may obtain eggs from fertility clinics and reimburse for costs that may include thousands paid to egg suppliers for donations.

Bottom line: If voters approve the amendment, the Missouri Constitution may protect human egg commerce from future regulation.

Kathleen Parker's e-mail is kparker@kparker.com.

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