The debate on Amendment 2 continues here in Missouri.
I think the last I touched on this was early on in this blog’s (still short) history; “Amendment 2 in Missouri — The Issues BOTH Sides Ignore”. (Actually, I didn’t comment on the amendment, itself, but did discuss the issue at the heart of the debate in a later post: “Good News & Bad News on Stem Cell Research”.)
Even though the amendment passed and embryonic stem cell research is now protected constitutionally in Missouri law, its opponents have found a chink in the armor and are going for it. They believe that Amendment 2 drafters sneakily placed a contradictory set of restrictions into the legislation: (A) Cloning humans is banned by Amendment 2, yet (B) somatic cell nuclear transfer (and funding for it) is protected by Amendment 2. Why contradictory? Because somatic cell nuclear transfer — the insertion of DNA into an unfertilized egg — is part and parcel of the cloning process, to such an extent that it is considered by many to be cloning. (Which is a conclusion than can be drawn for other reasons, as well.)
At issue is the fact that what it means to clone a human being hasn’t been precisely defined. For instance, the supporters of Amendment 2 say that they ban cloning by banning the implantation of the newly created entity in the womb. But there is good reason to ask whether that represents a true ban on cloning. After all, if you don’t have a “clone” until you are holding a fully delivered child in your hands, why stop at implantation? Why not make birth the impassable boundary? Or the beginning of the second trimester? Is implantation the stopping point because beyond that the idea stirs up too much public discomfort? Then why is the discomfort many feel for even pre-implantation work to be ignored? Is it because there isn’t enough discomfort? And since when has an arbitrarily defined amount of discomfort to be determined by the sentiment of the majority been a reliable guide for crucial moral boundaries?
So opponents of Amendment 2 are trying a new approach: they are trying to place into law a definition of cloning that includes somatic cell transfer. While I do not get involved with politics (a blog for another day), I must say that I agree with their conclusion: somatic cell transfer is cloning.
Someone who does not agree with them (or me) is Bill McClellan, commentator for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And while I do not agree with him in any way on the issue, I really appreciated a commentary he wrote that was published last Friday (October 12).
It was titled “Fuzzy wording skews debate over research on stem cells.” (Of course, it should have said, “embryonic stem cells,” but let’s ignore that for a moment.) In it, he sternly criticizes Missouri’s Secretary of State, who’s public summary of the Amendment 2 opponents’ initiative is, according to him, horribly misleading. AND, to his credit, he says so even though he believes that it is misleading in the favor of his point of view.
For instance, he noticed that the suggested summary says that the opponents’ initiative would “repeal the current ban on human cloning” and would “criminalize and impose civil penalties for some currently allowed research, therapies, and cures.”
To his credit, McClellan points out these misrepresentations:
“Come on, Robin. Repeal the current ban? That’s confusing. It would expand the ban. Criminalize and impose civil penalties for some currently allowed research, therapies and cures? That’s loaded language. Just say it would prohibit research that is currently allowed under both state and federal law.”
(Of course, in some areas the statements made in the suggested summary would be considered lies, but in those areas where legalese and politicalish are spoken, the statements are “loaded language”…)
To make it seem like those who oppose cloning are trying to allow cloning is amazing chutzpah. And to say that certain therapies and cures are being criminalized is another stretch, as most of what I’ve read from Amendment 2 opponents says that it’s not the cures, at all, but what they see as the unethical research being done to obtain those cures. Were the same cures obtained through the use of adult stem cells, most opponents I have read would be just hunky dory with it.
Again, from McClellan:
“This is not an effort to repeal the current ban on human cloning. This is an effort to amend the definition of human cloning to include somatic cell nuclear transfer. This is not about stopping stem cell research. This is about stopping embryonic stem cell research.”
So, my kudos to Mr. McClellan for his desire for honesty in the debate. Now, he is also clear on why he wants honesty: He believes that embryonic stem cell research should be allowed and supported, and should the initiative of the Amendment 2 opponents fail, he does not want them to have a legitimate reason to “cry foul.” As he says, “Win or lose next time, let’s be done with it.”
Personally, I would like to see the discussion get larger, rather than smaller. I would like to see the shortcomings of each side addressed. I would like to see the ungodly “cures at all costs” mentality addressed more generally and a rich discussion of the questions “What is ‘too far’ in research?” and “What are the boundaries of human life?” I would like those who support the use of embryos to address the question directly: If God’s “opinions” do not factor into what makes for moral or immoral research, then to what standard should we look? (And which “God’s” opinions matter should be fair game.)
Additionally, I would like the hypocrisy of Amendment 2 opponents who allow embryos to sit frozen “in perpetuity” in fertility clinics to be addressed, as well. I agree that it is wrong to argue, “Well, they’re just sitting there frozen, waiting for time to destroy them, so why not use them to help humanity?” — chiefly because I believe God doesn’t think so, and I believe that in the bigger picture crossing that line is dangerous for humanity. Yet, it seems to me that those who state that it is immoral to treat embryos as less than human while simultaneously claiming it is some how not immoral to create a batch of embryonic humans only to let them sit in the freezer for all eternity open themselves up to justified criticism and accusations of hypocrisy.
There is more to claiming the moral high ground than simply standing atop a tall rock on the low ground.
Now, do I want the discussion to get larger because it will get resolved that way? No. Frankly, I do not think the issue will be resolved until Christ returns to resolve it. And I think that some people in America will continue debating it until the Tribulation arrives to give them something else to think about. But at least the arguing would be honest, and it might bring into play the real issues at stake: Who is God (or even, “Which ‘God’ is God”), and what right does He have to tell us what to do?
So, thanks, Bill McClellan. While I may disagree with you, I appreciate your desire for a fair fight.
[Mr. McClellan’s 10/12/2007 article can be read here: “Fuzzy wording skews debate over research on stem cells.” If you’d like information on the Bible’s teachings about the incredible purpose of human life — a truth that helps to clarify the right stance in this controversy — consider reading our free booklet Your Ultimate Destiny online or ordering a free copy for yourself. It really is free: we’re not interested in getting money or selling names for lists or changing political policy or anything like that. We just want the truth in the hands of as many people as possible.]