Medical Professionals Online

Mo. Appeals Court Upholds Language In Title Of Stem Cell Research Ballot

August 26, 2017

A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday in a 2-1 ruling said that the language of a ballot proposal -- which would amend the state constitution to ensure that stem cell research permitted under federal law is protected in the state -- is accurate, the Kansas City Star reports. The action upholds a recent ruling by a lower court (Wagar, Kansas City Star, 3/29). The group Missourians Against Human Cloning sued Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D), saying the proposal's title -- Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative -- and summary are misleading because the measure would allow stem cell research that involves somatic cell nuclear transfer, which some consider a type of human cloning. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is conducted by inserting the genetic material from a patient's cell -- usually from a skin cell -- into an unfertilized egg from another person. The patient's genetic material incorporates into the egg and causes it to develop into an embryo that is a genetic match to the skin cell patient. Cole County, Mo., Circuit Judge Byron Kinder in January upheld the language of the ballot initiative saying it was "sufficient and fair." Kinder did not address whether stem cell research is ethical and did not take a position on the various definitions of a human embryo. MAHC later that month filed an appeal with a Missouri appeals court (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/31).

Ruling, Dissent
The state appellate panel ruling, Judge Victor Howard, said state law allows the initiative's sponsor, Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, to set definitions. He added that the initiative clearly defines cloning and bans such research. Howard wrote that the "[a]ppellants' real dispute seems not so much with the summary statement as it is with the initiative's definition of human cloning," adding that the "appellants ask us to choose their definition of human cloning over that set out in the initiative. We decline" (Kansas City Star, 3/29). In addition, the ruling said state law requires that the initiative's phrasing be clear and sufficient but does not require it to be the best possible wording, the AP/Belleville News-Democrat reports. Judge James Smart partly dissented from the ruling, saying that he would allow the language to remain to collect signatures, but the term "cloning" should be defined more clearly if the proposal goes to the ballot. "The ballot summary, standing alone, does not provide sufficient reference or context to clarify the meaning of the phrase and will tend to mislead those who are philosophically opposed to all nuclear transfer," Smart wrote (Wiese, AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 3/28). The decision allows MCLC to continue gathering signatures (Kansas City Star, 3/29). A petition of 145,000 signatures must be gathered to qualify the initiative for a statewide vote in November (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/31).

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