The following highlights election-related news on women's health issues.

Missouri: The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures -- which is supporting a measure that would amend the state constitution to ensure that stem cell research permitted under federal law is protected in the state and would prohibit human cloning -- has raised $28.7 million for its campaign, $28 million of which has come from one source. Opponents of the initiative have likely raised less than $2 million, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (Franck, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/16). The proposal, titled the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, would allow stem cell research that involves somatic cell nuclear transfer, which some consider a type of human cloning. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is conducted by inserting the genetic material from a patient's cell -- usually from a skin cell -- into an unfertilized egg from another person. The patient's genetic material incorporates into the egg and causes it to develop into an embryo that is a genetic match to the skin cell patient (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/8). The $28 million donation to MCLC came from Jim and Virginia Stowers, founders of American Century Investments. According to the Post-Dispatch, the couple declined an interview request, but their attorney David Welte said, "They are cancer survivors who are able to fund research that benefits the whole of Missouri." Jaci Winship of the Missourians Against Human Cloning, which is opposing the measure, said opponents likely will raise between $3 million and $5 million by election day (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/16).

Missouri: The state embryonic stem cell ballot initiative -- which was "a defining issue" in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Jim Talent (R) and state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) earlier this year -- recently has become "almost too hot to touch" in a race that "appears to be a dead heat," the New York Times reports (Saulny, New York Times, 10/15). McCaskill, who supports the measure, has said it would "enabl[e] Missouri doctors and researchers to be at the forefront of lifesaving research." Talent has said, "I personally cannot support the initiative because I've always been opposed to human cloning, and this measure would make cloning human life at the earliest stage a constitutional right" (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 5/3). McCaskill after a recent debate in Clayton, Mo., said the initiative is not included in her typical campaign speech but added, "It's not that I'm ignoring it, but the stem cell issue usually comes up in the context of question and answer." Talent said he has "urged everyone" to decide "on their own" how to vote on the measure (New York Times, 10/15).

South Dakota: U.S. House candidate Bruce Whalen (R), who opposes abortion rights, during a televised debate on South Dakota Public Broadcasting on Tuesday criticized incumbent Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D) for opposing a state law (HB 1215) banning abortion in the state except to save a woman's life, the Associated Press reports (Kafka, Associated Press, 10/18). The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families -- a coalition of opponents of the ban -- successfully blocked the July 1 enactment of the law by gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 10/13). Whalen -- who also criticized Herseth for taking contributions from Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America -- said he would vote to sustain the law. Herseth said she has spoken against the ban because it does not allow exceptions for rape and incest, adding, "Mr. Whalen would want the government to make the decision for women and their families that face dire circumstances. I believe the individual is in the best position to make that very personal and private decision." Libertarian Party candidate Larry Rudebusch said both sides in the abortion-rights debate should be working to try and find effective means of reducing the number of abortions (Associated Press, 10/18).

South Dakota: Campaigns supporting and opposing the state abortion ban say that "behind-the-scenes" work to get their voters to the polls next month will determine the outcome of the ballot referendum, the AP/Yankton Daily Press reports. Jan Nicolay, head of the Campaign for Healthy Families, said abortion-rights opponents have the advantage of having a long-standing organization of supporters, while "[w]e have to identify our voters because we didn't have that base to start with." The Campaign for Healthy Families will continue its door-to-door campaign to encourage voters to reject the ban, Nicolay said. Leslee Unruh -- head of VoteYesforLife, which supports the law -- said the group's supporters will display more than 30,000 signs before the election and encourage physicians and others to advocate for voters to approve the law. "Our people are well trained and organized," Unruh said, adding, "They've waited a long time for a day like this to come, where they come together and work to do something." According to the AP/Daily Press, both sides plan to continue to run television advertisements (Brokaw, AP/Yankton Daily Press, 10/17).

NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on Wednesday included a discussion of issues on state ballots, including stem cell research in Missouri and the abortion ban in South Dakota. Guests on the program included:
Kareem Crayton, assistant professor of law and politics at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law;
Bill Richardson, chair of the political science department at the University of South Dakota; and
Steve Kraske, host of KCUR's "Up to Date" and political correspondent for the Kansas City Star (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 10/18).

The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

"Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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