The Missouri human cloning ban and the criminal law.

A few commentators have noted the bizarre ballot summary created by Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. To put an amendment onto the ballot, amendment proponents drafted the amendment itself and filed it with the Secretary of State whose duty is to write a fair summary of the initiative to be placed on the signature petitions and on the ballot. Section 116.334, RSMo requires the statement to be “in the form of a question using language neither intentionally argumentative nor likely to create prejudice either for or against the proposed measure.”

Both the amendment and Carnahan’s summary are short.

Here is the amendment itself:

  1. It shall be unlawful to clone or attempt to clone a human being as that term is defined in subsection 2 of this section. Researchers may conduct stem cell research to discover cures for disease and develop stem cell therapies and cures, provided that the research complies with the limitations of this section and the limitations of Section 38(d). The prohibition of this section shall be in addition to the prohibitions of Section 38(d).
  2. For all purposes within this article, “Clone or attempt to clone a human being” means create or attempt to create a human embryo at any stage, which shall include the one-cell stage onward, by any means other than fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm.
  3. No taxpayer dollars shall be expended: 1) to clone or attempt to clone a human being; or 2) to research or experiment using a human embryo, or any part of a human embryo, derived from cloning or attempting to clone a human being.

Carnahan’s summary (to appear on the ballot):

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to repeal the current ban on human cloning or attempted cloning and to limit Missouri patients’ access to stem cell research, therapies and cures approved by voters in November 2006 by:

  • redefining the ban on human cloning or attempted cloning to criminalize and impose civil penalties for some existing research, therapies and cures; and
  • prohibiting hospitals or other institutions from using public funds to conduct such research?

Here are two articles that zero in on Carnahan’s disingenuous characterization of the initiative as a “repeal” of the current “ban” on human cloning, when (in plain english) this amendment would clearly broaden a ban on the implantation of cloned embyros to include a ban on the actual cloning of human embyros:

Fuzzy wording skews debate over research on stem cells by Bill McClellan

Missouri Cloning Language Corruption Continues

Criminal liabilty:

The secretary of state’s summary incorrectly states that the amendment would criminalize certain research, i.e. make it a punishable crime. It is true that Amendment 2 from last year did create criminal penalties for implantation of a human cloned embryo in a woman, but there is no criminal provision in this new initiative.

To ban something (or as here, make it “unlawful”) does not “criminalize” that activity. Under this initiative, human cloning is not “criminalized.” The initiative leaves it to the legislature to make human cloning a crime when, and if, it chooses.