Missouri voters were so torn between the promise of lifesaving cures and concerns about the moral and ethical implications of embryonic stem cell research that Amendment 2 was split nearly 50-50 at press time Tuesday night with more than 80 percent of reporting precincts casting ballots for and against the measure.
In Boone County, where the amendment passed by a wide margin, some voters did express confusion about the wording of the amendment, also known as the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.
Amendment 2 would guarantee that any stem cell research allowed by federal law be allowed in Missouri and would allow Missourians access to any stem cell cures that researchers might develop. The amendment would also allow state funding for research using embryos leftover from in vitro fertilization procedures.
Janet Flick of Hallsville turned out to vote in favor of Amendment 2 on behalf of her 12-year-old nephew, who has leukemia.
“We just want to give him the best opportunity,” she said. “When you’re personally affected by some of the illnesses you feel stronger about finding a cure, because you know what they’re going through.”
Her husband, Gary, also favored the amendment, citing the fact that his father and grandmother both had Alzheimer’s disease. Kent Anderson, a 48-year-old florist who voted in Boone County, opposed the amendment on religious grounds.
“I think (stem cell research) goes against the principles of what God intends the world to be,” Anderson said. “I think once we do that, and we go on to something else, and we get into cloning, and we get into all other kinds of things, which is not I believe the world is based on and set upon. And I think there are other ways out there ... to find cures for other diseases other than that.”
If the amendment fails, it is unlikely that much will change in the state any time soon because the measure is designed to protect existing access to stem cell research and to prevent the legislature from passing a ban.
Homemaker Terry Stoy of Boone County said she went to the polls Tuesday specifically because of the amendment.
“Amendment 2 is the most important because we’re tampering with life,” Stoy said. “We don’t make life to destroy it.”
Joanne Holste, 52, a teacher, said the wording of the amendment was unclear.
“I think (the amendment) was kind of confusing,” Holste said. She added that she and her husband changed their minds several times on the stem cell amendment before finally deciding they both would vote against it because of the complex language.
“Depending on who you spoke to, you heard different things,” Holste said. During his first term, President Bush restricted the allocation of federal money to researchers working with stem cell lines created before August 2001, but Congress has not banned private funding of stem cell research. That means research for the time being will continue in states such as Missouri that have not passed wholesale bans. However, without the protection of an amendment, the future of stem cell research in Missouri is unclear.
“Every family has a relative suffering from Parkinson’s disease, cancer, any number of problems,” said Paul Wallace, a 75-year-old MU professor emeritus. “(The opposition shows) a lack of any kind of understanding of science.”
In an interview with the Missourian published last Wednesday, R. Michael Roberts, curators professor of animal sciences, worried that failure to pass the initiative would make Missourians look foolish for rejecting very promising research and send the message to other researchers that Missourians are anti-science.