Missouri Right to Life’s Election Ranking’s: Who’s Pro-Life and Who’s Not

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Missouri Right to Life’s Election Ranking’s: Who’s Pro-Life and Who’s Not

by Jim Cole
August 12, 2008

LifeNews.com Note: Jim Cole is the general counsel and the chairman of the state legislation committee for Missouri Right to Life. The following editorial comes in response to one appearing in a Missouri newspaper.

Missouri Right to Life (MRL) appreciates the opportunity to respond to the commentary published last month in the Metro Voice on MRL’s ratings of legislators. MRL trusts in the good sense and fairness of the pro-life public once the public is given the chance to hear both sides of the issues involved.

The commentary repeated multiple allegations against MRL. A short reply such as this one cannot address each one separately.

It is more to the point to address the question that underlies all of them: how should the pro-life movement deal with the 21st-century issues of cloning and embryonic stem cell research?

MRL has a duty to report every year’s legislative record to its members to let them know what their legislators did with bills that were related to life. But it is a mistake to consider MRL’s table of votes for one year, such as 2007, as a “scorecard” of who is pro-life. MRL advises against doing that.

Each legislative year reflects its own vagaries on what bills get to the floor for votes. Using one year’s voting to measure legislators’ records is unfair to legislators. If one makes line-by-line comparisons of legislators using just one year’s votes, and then jumps to general conclusions about who is pro-life and anti-life, it is unfair to blame MRL for any unfavorable conclusions.

That is a mis-use of the table that MRL has warned against.

MRL PAC uses four years of voting records (or the number of years available if fewer) as a prime factor in deliberating on endorsements of legislators and rating them “100%,” “pro-life,” “mixed,” or “anti-life.”

MRL PAC’s endorsements and ratings in 2008, which depended in large part on legislators’ votes from 2005 through 2008, have understandably startled many pro-life supporters.

One basic pro-life principle and one corollary will illuminate what MRL PAC is doing.

The principle: it does not matter whether an unborn child is created by cloning or by conception, his or her life is equally sacred either way. The corollary: MRL will not count a vote to fund cloning and killing embryos as any less anti-life than a vote to fund abortion.

Politics became vastly more complicated for the pro-life movement when Missourians elected a Governor in 2004 who was very anti-abortion but also dedicated to the agenda of the cloners to an extent pro-lifers did not know at election time.

Both before and after the adoption of Amendment 2 in 2006, majority-party legislators were pressured hard not to vote against their Governor’s position on the issues of cloning and embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

Among the bills that raised those issues in 2007 were the sale of MOHELA assets, and appropriations to the Missouri Technology Corporation and the Life Science Research Board.

After Amendment 2, restrictive language was no longer constitutionally effective to restrict state benefits and money from going toward unethical scientific research.

Even apart from Amendment 2, the provisions in the funding bills that politicians claimed as protecting life were defective.

For instance, in respect to MOHELA (SB 389, 2007)—a deal that was promoted by the Governor to raise money for human biotech research–the actual statutory language did not contain one word of restrictions against using the money for cloning or ESCR. (See SB 389, secs. 173.385-173.393.)

The so-called pro-life restrictions were found in a contract among several governmental and non-governmental entities, all of which favored the Governor’s policies, and in a resolution of an entity called the Missouri Development Finance Board (MDFB). The contract and resolution could be quietly changed at any time to take away pro-life protections, without public debate or notice.

By the way, the intended use of the money was a major distinction between the MOHELA program and ordinary capital improvement programs. The funding of biotechnology infrastructure was stressed beginning with the initial announcement of the proposed MOHELA deal in 2006.

MRL did not oppose ordinary capital improvement programs, because there was no evidence of a similar goal in mind for them.

The appropriations bills in question gave Missouri Technology Corporation $30 million in 2007. MTC was and still is headed by Donn Rubin, the chairman of the effort to adopt Amendment 2.

Its board is not known to contain any pro-life sympathizers, except Representative Wayne Cooper. The Life Science Research Board was appropriated $13 million in 2007 and $21 million in 2008. Its board also is not known to contain any pro-life sympathizers, except Representative Bob Onder.

While it is good to have one ostensibly pro-life director for each agency, one lone director cannot ensure that these agencies will suddenly abjure cloning or unethical embryonic stem cell research.

If legislators were serious about addressing Amendment 2, they would not have passed legislation purporting to contain pro-life restrictions that ignored Amendment 2.

In 2007 they would have passed one of the resolutions to put a pro-life modification of the Amendment on the ballot in 2008. Instead, they allowed the pro-life resolutions to be bottled up in committees.

Some legislators, including Rep. Bob Onder, loudly proclaimed to the throng of pro-lifers who attended Lobby Day in March, 2007 that they were proud to sign a “discharge petition” to get one such resolution out of committee. Within three days of that Lobby Day, several of them, including Rep. Onder, quietly removed their signatures from the petition. The discharge effort collapsed.

Without a legislative resolution to put the question on the ballot, pro-lifers were forced to attempt an initiative petition effort in 2008, leaving it open for the Secretary of State to sabotage that effort by a biased ballot summary. If the Legislature had approved a resolution and a ballot summary, the Secretary of State would never have been involved, and Missourians would be voting on fixing Amendment 2 in November.

So what is a pro-life organization to do after it repeatedly announces its opposition to bills that allow funding for unethical human research and cloning, and legislators vote for those bills anyway?

Are we supposed to ignore the votes? That would be irresponsible to the innocent lives we are trying to protect.

Is MRL supposed to weigh the bills on funding the cloners differently than on bills to fund abortionists? On what ground? Is the life of a human of any less weight when it is ended after being cloned instead of ended after being conceived?

Cloning human beings is no longer just a theoretical concern. American scientists have announced they can do it, and it appears this time it’s for real. (C.A. Adams, et al., Development of Human Cloned Blastocysts Following Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) with Adult Fibroblasts, Stem Cells (journal), Jan. 17, 2008.)

The good folks from all over the state who compose Missouri Right to Life’s board and PAC see a responsibility to report the truth, not ignore it.

Doing so means some anti-abortion legislators no longer appear 100% pro-life. It seems to us, and we ask readers to consider, that in the 21st century, it takes more than being completely anti-abortion to be completely pro-life.

MRL stands with the unborn, however they are created, against all the ways that they can be killed. We hope that all pro-life Missourians will join us in working for that day when they are protected by the law, and our own state government is not providing money to destroy them.


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