Robert Novak

A new video available on YouTube marks a late attempt by pro-life forces to avert serious defeat in Missouri Nov. 7, with national implications. Cathy Ruse, speaking for Missourians Against Human Cloning, declares: "Amendment 2 is a fraud. It is an attempt to trick Missourians into approving -- in their Constitution -- human cloning, the right of biotech firms to do human cloning in Missouri -- something Missourians oppose by an overwhelming majority." But Amendment 2 is identified for many Missouri voters by the language at the beginning of the five-page, 2,000-word ballot initiative: "No person may clone or attempt to clone a human being." That explains why polls have shown a substantial margin of support for the constitutional amendment, also backed by key Republican politicians and business interests. It seems to offer the best of all worlds: government support of stem cell research without fear of cloning.

The problem is that the proposal so narrowly defines cloning as to open the door in Missouri to any cloning procedure that takes place outside the womb. If this is approved by a state that historically is a barometer of national trends and is considered a pro-life stronghold, it will be a national model for breaking popular resistance to what the scientists and biotech companies want.

A campaign costing an estimated $20 million has helped build a substantial lead for the amendment. A September poll by the Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates shows a 59 percent to 31 percent advantage. Democrats appear to have no doubt, favoring it 75 to 22, with only 3 percent undecided. But Republicans are split, 40 percent in support and 45 against, with 15 percent undecided.

Big Republican names -- former Sen. John Danforth, Gov. Matt Blunt and party contributor Sam Fox -- support the amendment. The $2 billion-endowed Stowers Institute in Kansas City, funded by GOP benefactors, spearheads the campaign.

That establishment Republican support for Amendment 2 has created a difficult situation for first-term GOP Sen. Jim Talent, engaged in a difficult re-election campaign. I reported Talent's "defection from the anti-cloning ranks" in February when he took his name off a Senate bill to ban cloning on grounds it might hamper acceptable scientific research.

Talent at that time was taking no position on Amendment 2, but he has since come out against it. In a recent debate with the Democratic Senate candidate, state Auditor Claire McCaskill, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Talent said the proposal "would create ... an unqualified constitutional right to clone the earliest stages of human life. " But he hastened to add he is not against stem cell research.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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