Missouri stem cell research critics refile lawsuit

Thursday, January 8, 2009 | 7:21 p.m. CST; updated 7:28 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 8, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri critics of embryonic stem cell research have resurrected a lawsuit that seeks to block $21 million from going to life sciences research.

The lawsuit, filed by Missouri Roundtable for Life, is similar to one tossed out in November by Cole County Judge Richard Callahan, who ruled that there was no genuine legal dispute to be decided.

In its amended lawsuit publicized Tuesday, Missouri Roundtable for Life claims there is a legal dispute over whether lawmakers had the authority to include $21 million in the state budget to disburse as life science research grants.

That money is to flow from the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund to the Life Sciences Research Board, which then distributes the money as research grants. The trust fund was created in 2003 to spend one-quarter of Missouri's annual proceeds from a legal settlement between states and tobacco companies.

The 2003 law that created the trust fund bars spending money for abortion services and human cloning — restrictions that stem cell research critics contend were trumped by a 2006 constitutional amendment endorsing embryonic stem cell research.

Two years ago, voters approved a ballot measure that guaranteed stem cell research legal under federal law would be allowed in Missouri. That allows scientists to clone embryos in laboratories and remove the stem cells — a procedure that some critics contend creates and destroys human life at its earliest stages.

In the revised lawsuit, Missouri Roundtable for Life argues that passage of the 2006 amendment invalidated the 2003 research restrictions, which triggered a provision in state law invalidating lawmakers' plan to spend $21 million for the research grants.

Donn Rubin, the chairman of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures that backed the 2006 stem cell amendment, said Tuesday that the Missouri Roundtable for Life essentially refiled its same arguments.

"It sounds like they've filed the same suit with the same wild claims that have no substance," Rubin said.

Ed Martin, an attorney representing the stem cell research critics, said that there are significant changes in the revised lawsuit, which is why it was permitted to be refiled. He accused Rubin of distorting the truth.

"It's catchy, but it's not fair and it's not true," Martin said of Rubin's assertions.

Martin, the former chief of staff for Gov. Matt Blunt, said Missouri Roundtable for Life now asserts that the 2006 stem cell amendment made it impossible to spend the $21 million appropriation instead of asking a judge to determine if the 2003 research limits still applied.

The the lawsuit was filed Monday.

Also Monday, Missouri Roundtable for Life announced it planned to push for a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot that would limit the types of research that can be supported by state funds.

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Charles Dudley Jr January 9, 2009 | 3:34 a.m.

The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures is a great foundation and is a regular contributor to the Columbia Citizens For Disability Advocacy Blog.

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