Right Works to Undermine Missouri Stem-Cell Amendment

Last November, Missourians voted to amend their state constitution to put a halt to attempts by their own state legislators to ban embryonic stem-cell research. Proponents of the amendment overcame a protractedand sometimes viciousrightwing campaign, and the Religious Right was dismayed by the results: “[W]e stand on the precipice of grave judgment if America does not repent,” said Rick Scarborough, who held several rallies throughout the state. “[G]overnment should never be able to veto the inviolable dignity of human life,” wrote David Prentice of the Family Research Council, warning that “democracy devolves into tyranny.” Opponents of stem-cell research vowed to continue the fight.

In a way, they are succeeding. The Stowers Institute for Medical Research is scrapping plans to expand its Kansas City facility, citing the hostile political environment, including a number of actions in the state legislature:

Sen. Matt Bartle’s unsuccessful filibuster of the nomination of Warren Erdman to the UM system Board of Curators because of his support for embryonic stem cell research.

The failed launch of a ballot item meant to overturn voter-approved Amendment 2. The ballot item would have banned somatic cell nuclear transfer, a process deemed critical to harness embryonic stem cells for research.

The withdrawal of life science-related projects from a $350 million plan to use sold loans from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority for capital improvement projects at public colleges.

Gov. Matt Blunt’s appointment of Rep. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, an opponent of embryonic stem cell research, to the Life Sciences Research Board.

As one scientist explained:

Scientist Kevin Eggan had once considered packing up his lab at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and moving to Missouri. Now he’s reluctant.

“I couldn’t possibly come to a place where I thought the potentially lifesaving research I want to do could become illegal,” said Eggan, who works on degenerative nerve disorders like Lou Gehrig’s disease.