Judge rewrites part of proposed stem cell amendment

Friday, May 2, 2008 | 6:16 p.m. CDT; updated 3:17 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Both opponents and supporters applauded a judge’s decision May 2 to rewrite part of a proposed constitutional amendment banning a particular type of embryonic stem cell research.

The decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, was largely symbolic, though, because supporters of the measure are not soliciting signatures to get it on the November ballot.

Cures Without Cloning, the sponsoring group, would have needed to turn in about 150,000 signatures by Sunday’s deadline. The group said it hopes to try again to get the measure on the 2010 ballot.

At issue before the appellate court was a ballot summary of the proposal, written by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, designed to explain the proposed amendment to voters.

When Carnahan released her summary language in October, supporters of the proposed amendment said it was inaccurate and could turn voters against the measure. Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce agreed in February and rewrote the ballot summary.

Supporters of the original stem cell research amendment, led by the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, appealed the decision.

In the appellate opinion written by Judge Lisa White Hardwick, the court agreed with Joyce’s finding that Carnahan’s use of the word “repeal” in the summary statement was unfair and insufficient, but did not agree with her decision to rewrite the entire statement.

“This ruling validates our summary statement as fair and accurate while only replacing one word,” Carnahan’s office said in a statement. “Missourians deserve to be able to clearly understand what they are voting for, and our office will continue to work to ensure fairness and integrity in all aspects of the elections process.”

Cures Without Cloning officials were pleased that part of Carnahan’s statement was ruled insufficient and unfair but said they planned to appeal to the state Supreme Court because the appellate court did not rule that the secretary of state violated the group’s constitutional rights.

“Justice delayed will not be justice denied,” group Chairwoman Lori Buffa said. “CWC will continue our educational efforts throughout this year and resubmit our initiative in November.”

Supporters of stem cell research saw the court’s decision as a step toward creating viable avenues to pursue treatments for sufferers of diseases such as Parkinson’s, cancer and sickle cell.

“Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures applauds today’s ruling, which is a victory for patients and their families who are in need of medical treatments and cures,” Chairman Donn Rubin said in a statement.

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