Division stalls bill to ban stem-cell research

Thursday, April 7, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:20 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — An effort in the state Senate to restrict embryonic stem-cell research in Missouri stalled Wednesday when faced with dissent within the Republican Party.

Sen. John Dolan, R-St. Louis County, a co-sponsor of SB 160 and a longtime opponent of abortion rights, said the bill coming to a vote would split the Republican Party — and the anti-abortion movement — and still would end with a veto from Gov. Matt Blunt.

“I’m still pro-life, but I don’t like where this is going politically,” Dolan said. “The votes aren’t there. The governor isn’t there. There is no solid majority.”

Remarks made throughout the day were indicative of the split, as Republicans said there was not enough information or party support to pass the legislation.

The anti-cloning bill would not only halt human cloning, but it would also halt a form of embryonic stem-cell research known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, which some scientists say has potential to cure many degenerative diseases.

The debate on the topic has been focused on whether these cells constitute human life.

Bill sponsor Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, said he worked for three years to get the legislation on the floor and urged his colleagues to think about the ethical ramifications of cloning.

“If you have any question in your mind about whether this is in fact a human embryo, if there is any doubt in your mind, shouldn’t we resolve it in favor of life?” Bartle said.

Bartle introduced a substitute amendment Wednesday that would eliminate the criminal penalties outlined in his initial bill in favor of civil penalties against scientists who conduct SCNT research.

His amendment also called for an allocation from the state’s share of money from the tobacco industry lawsuit settlement to be used for advancing research using adult stem cells rather than embryos.

As the debate stretched into the evening, Senate Majority Leader Charles Shields, R-St. Joseph, asked Bartle to put the bill aside until a compromise was reached.

Bartle said he would remain determined, despite the opposition from his constituents.

Later, Bartle presented a proposal to enact a three-year moratorium on somatic cell nuclear transfer in order to give opponents more time to bolster their case against such research.

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