Why does Missouri Cures oppose the 2016 Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment ballot initiative promoted by a group called Raise Your Hand for Kids (RYH4K)?
Missouri Cures does not take a position on the merits of a tobacco tax to support early childhood education. Our opposition to the initiative is rooted in the proposed ballot language, which states: “No funds from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be used for human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem cells, as defined in Article III, section 38(d).”
The effect of this sentence if it were to become part of the Missouri Constitution would be quite damaging. It would conflict with the constitution’s currently unambiguous voice protecting the freedom to conduct stem cell research in Missouri and would undermine the otherwise science friendly climate in our state.
Could there be negative repercussions if the RYH4K language is allowed to become part of the Missouri Constitution?
Yes. The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Amendment speaks with a single, clear voice that all stem cell research permitted under federal law will be permitted in Missouri. The constitutional ambiguity introduced by the RYH4K language would open the door to attempts in the General Assembly to restrict stem cell research directly or to other tactics aimed at creating a chilling effect on research. In the best case, such legislation might be successfully blocked; but it might lead to costly, divisive litigation with unpredictable outcomes and embarrassment to our state.
The current climate in Missouri is safe for doctors and scientists who wish to participate in federally approved stem cell research. Anti-research legislation cannot threaten this freedom and cannot create a chilling effect in our research institutions, as it does in states without the same constitutional protections in place.
Could funds generated by passage of the RYH4K initiative be used to support medical research?
No. Missouri Cures has never sought taxpayer support for stem cell research, and we are not seeking it now.
If Missouri Cures supporters are not seeking funds for research, why are you opposed to the language in this initiative?
The RYH4K initiative clearly spells out that the proceeds from the tobacco tax will be used solely for the purposes of early childhood education, early childhood health care and smoking cessation programs. All other uses are prohibited.
Why then, have the supporters of the initiative seen fit to include additional language that explicitly prohibits funds from being used for “therapies and cures using human embryonic stem cells, as defined in Article III, section 38(d)”? The answer is that the supporters of RYH4K seek to constitutionally single out and stigmatize research conducted with stem cells. This is why Missouri Cures opposes this initiative.
If the intent of the RYH4K’s initiative is clear without the anti-research language, why is it in there?
We have no doubt that this language is a calculated attempt to do harm to our research freedoms. We don’t necessarily believe that all proponents of the RYH4K ballot initiative are aware of or share that motivation. However, proponents have allowed the ballot proposal to be used by anti-research activists. It was on the fifteenth filing of the ballot proposal with the Secretary of State that changes were made that both added the harmful language and simultaneously converted a statutory initiative into a constitutional initiative. By their own internal memoranda, this new language was unnecessary and superfluous in achieving the stated goals of the initiative, i.e., to increase Missouri’s tobacco tax and to use the proceeds to fund early childhood education.
RYH4K claims the anti-research language is based on a recommendation from the report, Show-Me a Brighter Future Campaign Evaluation, by Washington University. Is this true?
No. The report in question is a post-campaign analysis of the failed 2012 tobacco tax campaign that was written by researchers at the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University. The authors made no recommendation to include language which conflicts with the 2006 stem cell amendment in the RYH4K initiative. While the report does discuss language included in the 2012 ballot measure to mitigate opposition from the pro-life community, to infer that strong anti-research language should be included in future tobacco increase initiatives is a complete overreach of the authors’ intentions.
Washington University stands with Missouri Cures in opposing the language in the proposed RYH4K initiative.
What action is Missouri Cures taking to address concerns about RYH4K’s initiative?
Missouri Cures calls for the removal of the harmful and unrelated anti-research language in the ballot measure. Until this happens, Missouri Cures stands opposed.
Paid for by Missouri Cures, Dena Ladd, Executive Director, P.O.Box 16580, St. Louis, MO 63105