New proposal seeks to ban certain embryonic stem-cell research

Thursday, August 23, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's battle over embryonic stem-cell research intensified Wednesday as a new group proposed a ballot measure seeking to outlaw a particular research method that voters narrowly endorsed just last year.

The group Cures Without Cloning launched its campaign by filing paperwork with the secretary of state's office for a constitutional amendment targeted for the November 2008 ballot. It also set up a campaign finance committee through the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The effort comes just nine months after Missourians adopted a constitutional amendment guaranteeing any federally allowed stem-cell research can occur in Missouri, including research using a controversial embryonic cloning technique.

Without specifically repealing last year's measure, the new proposal attempts to reverse a key portion by creating a new definition for banned human cloning activities.

The sponsors of last year's ballot measure promised to vigorously defend it from being altered by what they dubbed a "fundamentally deceptive" initiative.

At issue is a procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, in which a person's cell is injected into a human egg, which is then stimulated to grow as if it had been fertilized by a sperm. Scientists remove the resulting stem cells for research, destroying the newly formed embryo.

There's no indication anyone is Missouri actually is conducting such research. But proponents hope it could lead to treatments for such ailments as Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries.

Last year's amendment made it a crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, to "clone or attempt to clone a human being." But its definition of human cloning allowed somatic cell nuclear transfer, so long as no one attempted to implant the cloned embryo in a woman's uterus.

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