This evening the Rules Committee voted on HJR 11, the resolution to give Missouri voters a chance to really ban human cloning. The vote was 4-3 against, effectively ending any chance of getting the resolution through the legislature. One of the representatives who voted no represents a district that voted against amendment 2 by over 60% – not much of a “representative” of his district in this case. Someone I spoke with said that there is still the possibility of getting it on the floor with a discharge petition or another rarely used maneuver to bypass a committee vote, but it’s looking like we’re going to have to go the initiative petition route. That’s not really a terrible thing, but through the legislative process, we would have avoided spending a LOT of time and money.
Here is the letter I sent around to the committee members this morning:
My name is Chelsea Zimmerman and I am from Holts Summit Missouri. Seven years ago, when I was a junior in high school, I was in a car accident that damaged my spinal cord and left me paralyzed from the chest down. My injury is considered complete, which means that there is little or no medical chance that I will ever regain the use of my lower body.
I am writing you in support of HJR 11, to effectively ban all human cloning in the state of Missouri. Members of the opposition have labeled people like me as anti-stem cell research or opponents of stem cell research, effectively lumping all forms of stem cell research into the same category. But not all stem cell research is created equal. As a disabled individual I want to see that Missourians have access to all therapies and cures, but I also want to see those cures come about ethically. In supporting this resolution I also support ethical and productive stem cell research using stem cells found in places such as human tissue, umbilical cord blood, and amniotic fluid. I promote this research. I am excited about this research and I see it as the real hope for stem cell therapies and cures.
But the issue before us today is whether or not to allow voter the opportunity to ban the creation of cloned human beings beginning at the embryonic stage. To its credit Amendment 2 successfully banned the implantation and birth of a live human clone, but it left the door open to research on cloned human embryos.
Opponents of this resolution will say that this research is only on a minute group of cells called a blastocyst, implying that no embryo has been created. This country’s most prominent embryonic stem cell researcher, James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, said last year, such claims are a “disingenuous,” an attempt to “define away” the moral issue instead of confronting it honestly (MSNBC, June 25, 2005, www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8303756/) A blastocyst the name given to the second stage of normal human development when the fertilized egg (either from regular sexual reproduction or somatic cell nuclear transfer) creates inner group of cells (which contain embryonic stem cells) with an outer shell. This is how human beings develop! A zygote becomes a blastocyst, becomes an embryo, becomes a fetus, becomes a baby, becomes a toddler, etc… Every single human person began as a zygote and days later a blastocyst. Every single person, yes, even you! So it stands to reason that a blastocyst created through SCNT, which is indistinguishable from an embryo created with sperm and egg, would be no different.
A line must be drawn defining what constitutes good, moral and ethical research and the cloning of embryos crosses that line. We’re talking about creating and destroying human beings for scientific research. No cause, not even the high and noble goal of relieving or even eliminating human suffering is worth such a price. Science must be guided by clear ethical boundaries.
Embryos in a Petri dish are not lab rats. They are humans created in the image and likeness of God. When we fail to see the beauty and dignity of the human person from its very beginning and turn humanity into a science experiment, then we diminish what it is to be human.
Please support HJR 11 and vote it out of the Rules Committee.