Family Research Council

More Manipulation by Missouri Media

Cathy Ruse

Missouri media have a problem reporting the facts when it comes to human cloning and stem cell research.

The Kansas City Star and reporter Kit Wagar have become notorious for their bias in this area, and now the editors at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch show that they are not interested in a fair fight.

Today they defend the outrageously misleading ballot language drafted by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. The measure at issue, offered by a grassroots group called Cures Without Cloning, would ban the act of creating cloned human embryos for research-conduct which was raised to the level of a constitutional right by a razor-thin margin in last year's election.

But Carnahan's official summary says the Cures Without Cloning measure will "repeal the current ban on human cloning" and "limit Missouri patients' access to stem cell research, therapies and cures."

This is indefensible, yet the Post-Dispatch editors defend it-but only after a long lecture about the importance of objectivity.

It all comes down to one's definition of cloning, they say, and explain that supporters of last year's measure "argue that inducing an egg to begin dividing in a petri dish is not cloning."

But of course no one defines cloning this way. The editors are setting up a straw man here, not an honest argument. What they refer to in their foreshortened description is the process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, sometimes called SCNT. But more on that later.

The Post-Dispatch editors continue:

"To qualify as 'cloning' as most people understand the term, a dividing egg would have to be implanted in a uterus, allowed to develop into a fetus and eventually be delivered as a human baby.

Opponents, including Cures Without Cloning, say that that first step alone can be labeled as 'cloning' and, therefore, should be outlawed."

The editors side with "most people," of course, and conclude with this sophomoric aphorism: "The real question is whether voters are smart enough to distinguish between a baby and microscopic dividing cells in a petri dish."

Some objectivity is in order. First, most people understand that creating a cloned human embryo is indeed cloning, according to an extensive survey of over 4,800 Americans conducted by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University. (What's more, that survey found that 76 percent of Americans oppose it).

Second, the question of whether somatic cell nuclear transfer is or is not cloning has an objective answer beyond editorial musing about what most people think. The National Institutes of Health says: "Somatic cell nuclear transfer is the scientific term for cloning." The American Association for the Advancement of Science says: "[W]e have chosen to use the term cloned embryo to describe the product of nuclear transplantation." Johns Hopkins University 's Genetic and Public Policy Center says: "Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is the cloning technique."

Even embryonic stem-cell researcher Dr. R. Michael Roberts of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a supporter of last year's measure, agrees:

Proponents of [2006 Amendment 2] are wrong in denying that somatic cell nuclear transfer is cloning ... This produces an embryo that is genetically identical to the donor and is what is commonly thought of as a twin or a clone. ... This process is known to researchers as therapeutic cloning.

The Post-Dispatch editors ought to stop lecturing about objectivity and start practicing it.

Cathy Ruse is Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at Family Research Council.