COLUMBIA — Missouri Roundtable for Life has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Robin Carnahan seeking a change in the wording of a 2010 ballot initiative.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in Cole County Circuit Court. The initiative petition, which wouldn't appear on the ballot until 2010, would prevent public funds from being used for certain stem cell research currently allowed under Missouri law and "abortion services," including those necessary to save the life of the mother, according to a news release from Carnahan's office.
Ed Martin, president of Missouri Roundtable for Life, called the wording of the ballot by the secretary of state “utterly offensive” and said that it is “certainly not the intention” of the petition.
Martin said the language was "screwed-up" from the group's original petition's language and filing a lawsuit is "the only thing you can do." The group was in Columbia on Feb. 5 to talk with voters about the petition.
The not-for-profit group says that the language of Constitutional Amendment 2, passed by voters in 2006, leaves gaps to fund cloning and abortion with taxpayer dollars. The amendment marginally passed statewide.
The group said that cloning human embryos and somatic cell nuclear transfer, which is the kind of stem cell research allowed under the amendment, is human cloning. The group argues that two paragraphs of the amendment — in particular, paragraphs five and seven — create an entitlement of public funds to stem cell research that it finds wrong and problematic.
“I did not like the way Amendment 2 was written in the first place,” former state Sen. John Loudon said. “Understand this isn’t a statute, the constitution is a statement of who you are as a people.”
Loudon was a guest speaker at the Activity and Recreation Center in Columbia in support of the Missouri Roundtable for Life's petition to amend Constitutional Amendment 2.
Loudon and Martin were speaking as part of a grass-roots campaign to educate voters about the petition. Martin said he thinks now is an opportunity to speak relationally about the amendment issue.
“One of the reasons we are so convinced that it’s the right way to talk to voters about the issue is because it gives a larger group of people an opportunity to sort of relate to it,” Martin said. “You meet people who will say, ‘I don’t want to outlaw abortion, but I sure don’t want tax dollars to go to it.’ And you meet people who say, ‘Well, I’m not sure that I’m against human cloning. I don’t know if I care much, but I don’t want tax dollars going to it.”
Michelle Trupiano, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Affiliates in Missouri, said she strongly opposes the group's petition. “This measure would actually change our constitution to ban abortion in public hospitals, even when a woman’s life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest,” Trupiano said. “This is definitely too far. It can have very grave affects on women facing extreme circumstances.”
Trupiano also said that Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization, and that public funding is allocated toward abortions in public hospitals only under “very rare circumstances.”
Ryan Hobart, deputy communications director for the secretary of state, said the ballot states exactly what would be made illegal in terms of abortions and stem cell research, should the measure pass.
Martin said Monday that Missouri Roundtable for Life expects a court hearing on its lawsuit within 30 to 60 days.