When actor Michael J. Fox appeared Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulous,” he reiterated his support for Missouri’s Amendment Two and assured viewers that he shares their opposition to human cloning. Then he made a stunning admission that effectively gutted his endorsement.
Asked to explain how he could square the amendment’s claim to ban cloning with its fine-print promise to enshrine as a constitutional right somatic cell nuclear transfer – the technical term for the cloning process that was used to create Dolly the sheep – Fox said he was “not qualified to speak on the page-to-page content of the initiative. Although I am quite sure that I’ll agree with it in spirit, I don’t know, I – on full disclosure, I haven’t read it, and that’s why I didn’t put myself up for it distinctly.”
It’s too bad that Fox did not do his homework before making his impassioned televised plea to Missouri voters last week. If he had, he might have learned why opposition to this phony cloning ban has energized citizens across the state and inspired them to mount a broad-based grassroots challenge to the $28-million campaign bankrolled by billionaires James and Virginia Stowers of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City.
Reading past the 96-word ballot title and delving into the nearly 2,000 words of fine print, Fox would have discovered that the amendment’s authors bucked the scientific establishment’s commonly accepted definition of human cloning as the process of creating a cloned human embryo and opted instead to define cloning as the implantation of a that embryo into a uterus. In other words, their amendment bans reproductive cloning while making the cloning and killing of human embryos for research a constitutional right.
Amendment backers have justified their semantic sleight of hand by arguing that public fears about cloning have more to do with the prospect of living among human clones than killing them for research. But polls suggest otherwise. Earlier this year, an International Communications Research survey commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found that 81 percent of respondents said scientists should not be allowed to “use human cloning to create a supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research” – roughly the same percentage of Americans that disapproved of reproductive cloning.
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