CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A pro-life group based in the Midwest may have stumbled badly by offering a ballot initiative in Missouri that defines human beings as having a "complete set of 46 chromosomes,'' when an egg is fertilized in a mother's womb. One problem: People with genetic diseases such as Down syndrome don't have 46 chromosomes. They have 47, and thus could be outside the legal definition of "human."
There are other genetic disorders such as Turner syndrome, which afflicts a person with 45 chromosomes.
The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, which led a drive last fall to put a provision in the state constitution that allows embryonic stem cell research, said today the initiative filed last week was scientifically flawed. The coalition said a group called Cures Without Cloning (its proposed initiative appears on the link) was opposed to stem cell research. Cures Without Cloning has ties to the pro-life movement, and filed the initiative language with the Secretary of State's office on August 22. Closer scrutiny today raised the questions about who would be defined as a human being.
Dr. F. Sessions Cole, the chief medical officer of St. Louis Children's Hospital, said the new initiative was poorly worded and would eliminate people from the human race because of their chromosome abnormalities.
"It's impossible to know all the consequences of this vague and poorly written initiative, but there's one that's immediately clear. If you're one of the thousands of Missourians with a chromosome abnormality, the initiative declares you not to be human and enshrines that definition into our constitution. I find that deeply troubling . . ."
Cole supported the Stem Cell Amendment, and was speaking for a coalition that includes organizations looking for cures to diseases like Parkinson's and diabetes. Its Website is here, but the discussion of the new initiative's purported scientific flaws is not yet available. Officials said they should have a statement there within the next 24 hours.