Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Missouri voters have narrowly approved a measure sanctioning embryonic stem cell research in the state. The amendment to the state constitution received 51% of yesterday’s vote after supporters waged a $30 million advertising campaign that included celebrities such as Michael J. Fox. Elsewhere, three governors who had backed stem cell research in their states won re-election, while one of the biggest congressional opponents of their use–U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)–was trounced.

“I’m very proud of Missouri,” says Steve Teitelbaum, a Washington University bone pathologist who has campaigned on the grassroots level around the state for years on the issue. He predicts that the small but potent research community of universities and biotech companies centered in St. Louis and Kansas City will benefit from passage of the amendment–which prevents lawmakers from barring work on embryonic stem cells while criminalizing cloning with the goal of reproduction–as will patients. “It’s going to energize the biotech community,” he says.

I was watching this race last night (well, refreshing the CNN poll page) with a lot of interest. At first it certainly appeared like it was going to be defeated, but I’m so glad to see that Missouri voters came through. Good job!


  1. #1 Orac
    November 8, 2006

    Although I’m for embryonic stem cell research and have posted about the lies used by opponents of this measure to try to defeat, in the end, if I lived in Missouri, I probably would have voted against Amendment 2. The reason? It’s a constitutional amendment, and philosophically I’m very conservative when it comes to measures amending constitutions.

    Stem cell research is not something that belongs in a state constitution; it should be permitted or not permitted, funded or not funded, through the usual legislative process. The constitution should not be cluttered with things that don’t have anything to do with the “big picture,” things like separation of powers; the constitution of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; enumeration of powers of taxation; division of powers between state, county, and local governments; and rights of state citizens. A specific area of scientific research just doesn’t belong in the constitution.

  2. #2 Shelley Batts
    November 8, 2006

    Hmmm, I certainly see your point Orac. But I am more willing to allow an amendment to the constitution if it benefits medical and scientific progress—especially when nonesense like gay marriage bans get a crack at the process.

    The legislation only guarantees that any stem cell treatment and research allowed by the U.S. government could also occur in Missouri. My understanding is that the amendment would protect the ability to conduct research rather than mandate it.

  3. #3 Orac
    November 8, 2006

    I never said the Amendment “mandated” stem cell research.

    I still think it doesn’t belong in a state constitution. In fact, in response to your mention of gay marriage bans, the contrarian side of me can’t resist pointing out that such bans probably have more of a valid reason to be considered as a constitutional amendment than this stem cell amendment. After all, as wrong-headed as they are, such bans do deal with an absolutely fundamental human institution and the laws and rights pertaining to it.

    I’m not saying that I support such bans; I’m merely pointing out that they deal with the sorts of topics appropriate for a constitutional amendment more than the stem cell amendment does.

  4. #4 Wordswinker
    November 9, 2006

    I live in Missouri. I don’t care the mechanism for allowing stem cell research, just that we do. Actually, I couldn’t believe how close this issue was. I had a “Yes on Proposition 2” sign in my yard, and some moral absolutist stole it. It’s a passionate subject among people who insist that a blastocyte is just as important as my 15-year-old, Type 1 diabetic son.

    The point that just slays me, though, is that these petri dishes of 100 cells or so, if not used, get thrown into Clorox. What kind of person sees justice in opposing such a measure?

    All told, though, I’m proud that Missouri passed the legislation and helped deliver the Senate with Claire McCaskill’s victory. I was at her post-election hoopla last night, and you’ve never seen a thousand people so absolutely elated. Just like when we won the World Series, horns were honking on every downtown street well past 3:00 a.m.

  5. #5 blipey, FCD
    November 9, 2006

    While I agree with orac about what should or should not be a constitutional ammendment, I was happy to see my fellow Missourians supporting something that should be supported (we have a fairly spotty record on doing the right thing: public transport, public schools, electing dead guys to Congress…)

    It is a philosophical tipping point that I am happy to see falling pro-science. I am on the road and so have not gotten the best info on the elections, but it is my guess that the cities carried the day. I would guess a vast majority of the counties in MO voted against the ammendment. These rural counties reported earlier and showed a favor for Jim Talent and against stem cell research. When the Kansas City and Saint Louis precincts reported it carried the day for McCaskill and science.

    If this is indeed the case, I think the fight is far from over: urban areas against the vastly more socially conservative rural areas of not just MO, but the country as a whole.

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