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August 25, 2007

Defining humanity

So the new initiative from the Cures Without Cloning organization defines human life as the time when “a single egg cell receives a complete set of 46 chromosomes and continues through any subsequent stages of embryonic, fetal, postnatal and later development” (8/23, Local, “Cloning foes advance cause”).

It might interest these people to know that most individuals with Down Syndrome have 47 chromosomes, individuals with Turner Syndrome usually have 45, and countless more people do not have a “complete set” of genetic information through small chromosomal deletions or insertions.

This group has denied humanity to all these people. If this is its definition, then its members are the ones who don’t know what they are talking about.

I have a master’s degree and taught biology for 25 years. When I voted for Amendment 2, I knew what I was voting for, and so did the vast majority of other people who voted for the amendment.

On the other hand, many of the people to whom I talked who voted against Amendment 2 could not even define “stem cell” correctly, let alone describe the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer. Amendment 2 specifically prohibits reproductive cloning. There is nothing confusing about it.

Linda Casebolt
Lee’s Summit

Comments

irishguy

There is also a pretty obvious and safe distinction between a baby, a teenager, and an elderly person, all of whome are human beings in different stages of development.

Which ones can we kill for their body parts?

bmmg39

irishguy: "bmmg, I would challenge any person to find that definition of cloning in any scientific journal. It exists only in the Constitution of the State of Missouri."

Sadly, it also exists in other state constitutions and proposed amendments. It's also in the bill that was, fortunately, rejected by the U.S. Congress. Enough members of the House saw the definition for what it is: a fake cloning ban.

CRD: "I think that there's a pretty obvious and safe distinction between a living, breathing baby, and an undifferentiated clump of cells the size of this period."

-- except according to scientific fact, but, of course, you've already announced on this website that you're not really interested in scientific fact.

CRD

The law bans cloning of human beings, and allows for copying of clumps of cells.

You don't think clumps of cells should be replicated, even if it could lead to a lifesaving cure.

I think that there's a pretty obvious and safe distinction between a living, breathing baby, and an undifferentiated clump of cells the size of this period .

irishguy

"Not by any reasonable reading of the provision. Sorry to burst your bubble there. :-)"

Sorry to burst your bubble, but talk to a lawyer about what a broad term "discourage" is, particularly when written into the state constitution.


irishguy

"The law allows for cells to be copied,"

BINGO! You've just defined cloning. And in a very "common sense" manner.

And speaking of "common sense," it once told the human race that the sun and the stars revolved around the earth. "Common sense" once dictated that the earth was flat.

But you are correct. Writing law based on "common sense" instead of science can be pretty tricky.

Here is how the National Institutes of Health defines somatic cell nuclear transfer, the process that Amendment 2 allows:

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)—A technique that combines an enucleated egg (nucleus removed) and the nucleus of a somatic cell to make an embryo. SCNT is the scientific term for cloning. SCNT can be used for therapeutic or reproductive purposes, but the initial stage that combines an enucleated egg and a somatic cell nucleus is the same. See also therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning.

CRD

"“Clone or attempt to clone a human being” means 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."

Yes, it's just crazy when we specifically define the terms used in law. Particularly when they so closely accord to commonsense usage.

The law allows for cells to be copied, but it doesn't allow for cloned persons to be grown.

The majority of Missourians see a difference between a clump of cells in a petri dish and a living human being.

CRD

"CRD, if the General Assembly funds other forms of "life science" research, but excludes embryonic stem-cell research from public funding, they would be "discouraging" embryonic stem-cell research."

Not by any reasonable reading of the provision. Sorry to burst your bubble there. :-)

irishguy

bmmg, I would challenge any person to find that definition of cloning in any scientific journal.

It exists only in the Constitution of the State of Missouri.

irishguy

"nor does it appear that we're anywhere near such wombs being a scientific actuality)"

Let me tell you another thing that we're not "anywhere near . . . being a scientific actuality."

How about "cures" or even therapies involving embryonic stem cells?

Ah, but you remember the slogan, "It could save the life of someone you love." Another lie.

In case you have forgotten that slogan, you can drive up Prospect headed north and see a billboard just before you get to 59th Street. They didn't bother taking their billboards down in inner-city neighborhoods.

irishguy

CRD, if the General Assembly funds other forms of "life science" research, but excludes embryonic stem-cell research from public funding, they would be "discouraging" embryonic stem-cell research.

It would be a slam dunk, which was what the fight over MOHELA was all about, assuming you paid attention to that.

bmmg39

"“Clone or attempt to clone a human being” means 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."

And there you have it, CRD. That's where the authors of Amendment 2 invented their own definition of "clone" so that they could convince voters that A2 prohibits cloning, when in fact it installs it into the state constitution. If you're still not seeing it, then you're clearly the one with poor comprehension skills.

CRD

"Amendment 2 forever forbids the General Assembly and any county or local government in Missouri from ANY regulation of anything that can be called "stem cell research.""

Plain language of the amendment states that:

"No state or local law, regulation, rule, charter, ordinance, or other governmental action shall (i) prevent, restrict, obstruct, or discourage ANY STEM CELL RESEARCH [emphasis added] or stem cell therapies and cures that are permitted by this section to be conducted or provided, or (ii) create disincentives for any person to engage in or otherwise associate with such research or therapies and cures."

You argue that that language requires "the Missouri General Assembly to fund embryonic stem-cell research as long as it funds any "life sciences.":

I say once again, that's an incorrect reading of the constitutional amendment language. It's simply a requirement that state and local government can't punitively deny state/local funding to an entity if an entity engages in stem cell research funded by other sources. There's no requirement that any such research be funded by the state or locality.

I think you have read the amendment. However, your readings of the language are not founded in sound principles of statutory interpretation.

As for your artificial womb scenario, the status of artificial wombs remains the same as before the amendment. If it's not illegal under Amendment 2, then such actions were also not illegal prior to Amendment 2. If you think that artificial womb wielding mad scientists are an imminent threat, then you should lobby to make artificial womb usage illegal.

I just don't see the point of such a law, since I'm unconvinced that cloning firms are setting up shop in Missouri with their artificial wombs ready to grow millions of Boba Fetts. (nor does it appear that we're anywhere near such wombs being a scientific actuality)

irishguy

"A rather easy fix legislatively, and, since public sentiment doesn't seem to support cloning of human beings, I'd reckon that if folks became convinced that this science fiction scenario was imminent, a law banning artificial uteruses would pass in a heartbeat."

Once again, I refer you to Section 7:

"No state or local law, regulation, rule, charter, ordinance, or other governmental action shall (i) prevent, restrict, obstruct, or discourage ANY STEM CELL RESEARCH [emphasis added] or stem cell therapies and cures that are permitted by this section to be conducted or provided, or (ii) create disincentives for any person to engage in or otherwise associate with such research or therapies and cures."

Amendment 2 forever forbids the General Assembly and any county or local government in Missouri from ANY regulation of anything that can be called "stem cell research."

The only way you can do it is with another state constitutional amendment, and no that is not an "easy fix."

And you accused me of not reading the amendment?

irishguy

"Reading "uterus" broadly, to cover "artificial womb," (no less a stretch than your "no life sciences" interpretation), your hypothetical scenario is now illegal, thanks to Amendment 2."

Silly me, and all this time, I thought "uterus" meant "uterus."

Now tell me why you have to "read uterus broadly" (otherwise known as reading into plain language words that aren't there) to get to the conclusion you think is there?

Because it isn't there.

CRD

As for bmmg, he/she simply demonstrates a severe language comprehension problem. Yet again.

irishguy

You can disagree with it all you want. Doesn't make it wrong.

You want to find another little deception in the amendment? Go look at what they exclude from "valuable consideration" to acquire the human eggs needed for cloning.

They get to reimburse a third party for whatever they paid to a woman to undergo the hyperovulation process needed to harvest the eggs surgically.

Guess who is most likely to sell their eggs? Jim and Virginia Stowers' daughters and granddaughters?

CRD

"And it only banned implantation into a uterus. How far away are all these great scientists who promise to cure every disease known to humankind from inventing an artificial womb?"

[rolling eyes]

"No person may clone or attempt to clone a human being."

"“Clone or attempt to clone a human being” means 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."

Reading "uterus" broadly, to cover "artificial womb," (no less a stretch than your "no life sciences" interpretation), your hypothetical scenario is now illegal, thanks to Amendment 2.

If it's not illegal under Amendment 2, then such actions were also not illegal prior to Amendment 2.

At worst, we have a loophole that allows for mad scientists to create artificial wombs in violation of the spirit of the law. A rather easy fix legislatively, and, since public sentiment doesn't seem to support cloning of human beings, I'd reckon that if folks became convinced that this science fiction scenario was imminent, a law banning artificial uteruses would pass in a heartbeat.

However, come on! Show me the evidence that firms are breaking down the doors to come to Missouri -- not for legal stem cell research -- but to create little Mini-Mes galore!

Ain't happening.

CRD

"It either has to fund NO life sciences, or fund embryonic stem-cell research as well, otherwise, they would be "discouraging" embryonic stem-cell research."

I disagree with your interpretation.

irishguy

And it only banned implantation into a uterus. How far away are all these great scientists who promise to cure every disease known to humankind from inventing an artificial womb?

CRD, please don't condescend to me. You are better than that. I have read the amendment, all 2,100 words of it, including Section 7:

"No state or local law, regulation, rule, charter, ordinance, or other governmental action shall (i) prevent, restrict, obstruct, or discourage any stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures that are permitted by this section to be conducted or provided, or (ii) create disincentives for any person to engage in or otherwise associate with such research or therapies and cures."

Key word: DISCOURAGE [emphasis added]. A very broad word. That means the General Assembly can't play favorites when it comes to funding life sciences. It either has to fund NO life sciences, or fund embryonic stem-cell research as well, otherwise, they would be "discouraging" embryonic stem-cell research.


bmmg39

Again, A2 did not ban cloning; it only banned the IMPLANTATION of a cloned, embryonic human being. It is as if someone wanted to legalize arson, and then wrote an amendment that claims to "prohibit arson," but then re-defines "arson" to mean "to burn down a house and then build another in its place," meaning that the act of burning a house, itself, would be protected, since it didn't fit the new, self-serving definition of "arson."

Amendment 2 supporters lied to Missourians and Americans as a whole -- both groups oppose this sort of "research cloning" -- by telling them that the amendment "prohibited cloning" when clearly it did not. A new amendment will, it is hoped, correct that.

 
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