Missouri stem-cell debate gets the spotlight

Jonathan Garthwaite
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Posted: Oct 29, 2006 12:00 AM
Missouri stem-cell debate gets the spotlight

It happens every election cycle without fail. A campaign on one side or the other trots out a starving child, a grieving mother or dying grandmother and exploits the heck out of their personal tragedy in order to elect some smarmy politician who isn’t likely to even give a whoop about them once elected.

Election 2006 is no different. This year’s victim is of his own choosing. Michael J. Fox lent his name, image and voice to the McCaskill for Senate campaign and linked up the Senate election to the efforts to pass Amendment 2 in Missouri which seeks to legalize embryonic stem research and create a back door to dolly-the-sheep type cloning all while masquerading as an anti-cloning measure.

Back in September, the proponents of Amendment 2 were riding high. They had successfully duped the Missouri public into full support of the Amendment. It was a political bait-and-switch put together like a masterpiece.

The citizens of Missouri were being asked if their state constitution “[should] be amended to allow and set limitations on stem cell research, therapies, and cures” and “ban human cloning or attempted cloning.”

Except that in the fine print and legalese, the definition of cloning was modified to actually create a loophole to allow certain types of cloning. The fine print also set in place restrictions on the government and its citizens’ ability to restrict certain types of research.

The result is a restriction on regulations that translates into the advocacy and funding of embryonic stem cell research which most Missourians would oppose if they found out the truth? Should the Amendment pass, it could actually have the effect of forcing the state to fund and conduct embryonic stem-cell research.

Back in September, the proponents of Amendment 2 had polling data showing they were headed to an easy victory. All they had to do was avoid controversy and slide in over the finish line on Election Day.

Except they may have made a fatal error when they put Micheal J. Fox, shaking from his Parkinson’s, on the television.

Fox appeared in a campaign ad where he – shaking from his condition - urged Missouri electorate to vote for the stem-cell measure and Democratic Senate challenger Claire McCaskill against Republican incumbent Jim Talent.

This prompted talk show host Rush Limbaugh to question whether Fox was being honest with viewers and suggested the Fox was "either off his medication or acting." That may sound insensitive but it would not be the first time that Fox had apparently manipulated the symptoms associated with his Parkinson’s disease and it isn’t the first time Fox has gotten caught up by questions of whether he is playing on the sympathy of others.

In his autobiography, Fox admits that in preparation for his congressional testimony in the past, he decided not to take his medication for dramatic effect.http://www.michaeljfox.org/news/article.php?id=5

"I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling."

As you can imagine, this controversy has stirred the emotions of everyone on both sides and has a lot more people involved in the debate than had been during the late Summer.

The Michael J. Fox ad caused several Missouri celebrities, who are opposed to Amendment 2, to create their own ad starring St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, Passion of the Christ star, Jim Caviezel, and Everyone Loves Raymond actress, Patricia Heaton.

So much for secretly passing the constitutional amendment in the dark of night. Missouri voters are in a full-fledged debate about cloning and they are beginning to see the light.

The embryonic stem cell proponents may still prevail and pass this Amendment, but they have a much tougher road ahead now that they have overreached.

In just the past two weeks, polling has shown that the number of people whose vote is a “certain yes” on the measure has dropped from 57% to 45%. It seems the more Missourians know about Amendment 2, the more they know they don’t like it.

See everyone on Election Day.