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Amendment 2 opponents seek to re-engage in battle in 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 23, 2011 - Missouri Roundtable for Life, an anti-abortion group, is seeking to launch a 2012 ballot effort to revisit the 2006 fight over Amendment 2, which protects all types of embryonic stem cell research allowed under federal law.

The group on Wednesday filed a proposed initiative petition with the secretary of state's office to change the amendment's definition of human cloning. If approved, such wording would outlaw some forms of stem-cell research now allowed in the state.

Assuming that their initiative-petition proposal is approved for circulation, the Roundtable would need to collect roughly 160,000 signatures of Missouri registered voters to get it on the 2012 ballot.

Amendment 2, which was narrowly approved statewide in 2006, states specifically that it would "ban human cloning," which is defined as "to implant in a uterus or attempt to implant in a uterus anything other than the product of fertilization of an egg of a human female by a sperm of a human male for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy that could result in the creation of a human fetus, or the birth of a human being."

However, the Roundtable and its allies disagree with that definition. They seek the wording that was approved by legislators in 2003 (and which helped prompt the Amendment 2 effort in the first place).

That 2003 wording, superceded by Amendment 2, defines human cloning as "to create a human being by any means other than the fertilization of an oocyte of a human female by the sperm of a human male."

Roundtable treasurer Fred Sauer asserted in a statement, "Voters in 2006 were misled into thinking they were voting to ban human cloning when in fact the opposite was true. ... We want to correct this mistake."

Amendment 2 critics touted the cloning issue with some success during 2006, which the amendment's supporters countered with an ad in which a scientist said it would actually ban human cloning. Amendment 2 backers contended at the time that their definition was closer to what the public viewed as "cloning." The critics disagreed, but lost that fight in 2006 -- but apparently now want to try again.

UPDATE: Sauer noted in an interview Thursday that the Roundtable has made several failed attempts since 2006 to get measures on the ballot aimed at reversing at least part of Amendment 2's research protections.

The Roundtable also has been involved in several court fights that unsuccessfully challenged the ballot summaries approved by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. Sauer said the group is optimistic that it will get a better summary wording this time.

Meanwhile, Missouri Cures -- an offshoot of the coalition that successfully won passage of Amendment 2 -- is blasting the Roundtable's latest effort.

Cures executive director Dena Ladd said in a statement, "Despite all of the stem cell breakthroughs that have occurred since passage of the Missouri Stem Cell Amendment in 2006, a fringe group of stem cell opponents continues to target the voter-approved initiative that protects this life-saving research.

"This single group of anti-stem cell activists is the same one that filed more than 30 failed ballot initiatives in the past, as well as numerous unsuccessful lawsuits against the state of Missouri," Ladd continued. "The judge who dismissed one of the lawsuits not only called the activist group's claims 'without merit,' she wrote that they 'rise to the level of being frivolous.' That's strong language coming from a judge, but appropriate as this constant litigation and excessive petitioning has tied up Missouri courts and state agencies, wasting taxpayer money at a time when the state cannot afford to expend resources on "frivolous" activities. This petition is more of the same."

"As the latest attempt indicates, this group continues to look for any tactic to force their will -- no matter the cost to patients suffering from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, heart disease, macular degeneration, sickle cell disease or another affliction that stem cell researchers are working tirelessly to cure..."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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