Obama Admin Will Appeal Ruling Against Forcing Embryonic Stem Cell Funding
by Steven Ertelt
August 24, 2010
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The Obama administration announced today that it will appeal a federal judge’s decision striking down President Barack Obama’s executive order forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research. The judge said the order contravened a federal law against funding the destruction of human embryos.
U.S. district court Judge Royce Lamberth granted a preliminary injunction against the funding.
Judge Lamberth’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by stem cell researchers who said the Obama executive order and subsequent funding from the National Institutes of Health violated the Dickey amendment, the federal law prohibiting funding the destruction of human embryos via research.
Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters today at a press conference that the Obama administration will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to lift the preliminary injunction Judge Lamberth issued.
White House spokesman Bill Burton added that Obama still believes his policy of using taxpayers’ money to pay for research that involves the destruction of human life "is the right one."
Meanwhile, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins held his own press conference today and said the injunction will not stop scientists who already received some federal funds from conducting embryonic stem cell research, which has never helped any patients.
"We are reassuring those who already have grants that were funded that they can continue with their research," he said.
Collins said NIH officials were surprised by the ruling but said some $130 million worth of ongoing research would not be halted.
"Frankly, I was stunned, as was virtually everyone at NIH, by the judicial decision yesterday," Collins told reporters, according to Reuters.
But, Collins did say the decision would halt millions planned for 50 applications for new rounds of taxpayer funding of research that has still failed to find success in animal studies because of problems such as embryonic stem cells causing tumors and triggering immune system rejection issues. Also, another annual set of $54 million in grants expected to be sent in September will now not go out.
Collins said he could not comment on the legal particulars of the case but said NIH officials would be helping the Obama administration fight back.
"There are a lot of people who thought they were going to be on vacation working very hard," he said.
In his decision, Lamberth noted that the imposition of an injunction required that those challenging the government’s funding demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits for their arguments. Apparently, they succeeded.
"(Embryonic stem cell) research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed," Lamberth wrote in the 15-page ruling
The Court noted, "Embryonic stem cell (ESC) research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo," and concluded that funding such research violates existing law.
Dr. Theresa Deisher, of AVM Biotechnology and Dr. James L. Sherley, a former MIT professor and scientist, are parties to the lawsuit because they say the Obama order sends funding for their adult stem cell research to scientists working with unproven embryonic stem cells.
"There is no after-the-fact remedy for this injury because the Court cannot compensate plaintiffs for their lost opportunity to receive funds," Lamberth wrote.
He said his order would not hurt embryonic stem cell researchers because they have the opportunity to find private funds.
The lawsuit, filed in August 2009, alleges that the guidelines governing destructive embryonic stem cell research implemented by the Obama administration in July “are contrary to law, were promulgated without observing the procedures required by law."
The lawsuit says the guidelines violate the Dickey-Wicker appropriations provision regarding embryo research that prohibits federal funding of creating human embryos by any method, explicitly including human cloning, or any "research in which" human embryos are harmed in any way.
Thomas G. Hungar, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, which includes the Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Medical Association, said in 2009 when the lawsuit was filed, "the language of the [Dickey-Wicker] statute is clear" that it "bans public funding for any research that leads to the destruction of human embryos."
"NIH’s attempt to avoid Congress’s command by funding everything but the act of ‘harvesting’ is pure sophistry. The guidelines will result in the destruction of human embryos and are unlawful, unethical, and unnecessary," he told LifeNews.com at the time.
Sam Casey, General Counsel of Advocates International’s Law of Life Project, a public interest legal project involved in the case, pointed out that NIH officials have admitted they violated the public comment process by ignoring the majority of comments coming from pro-life advocates opposed to destroying unborn children for their stem cells.
"The majority of the almost 50,000 comments that the NIH received were opposed to funding this research, and by its own admission, NIH totally ignored these comments," he said. "The so-called spare human embryos being stored in IVF clinics around the United States are not ‘in excess of need,’ as the NIH in its guidelines callously assert. They are human beings in need of biological or adoptive parents."
Embryonic stem cell research has yet to help a single patient, unlike adult stem cell research — which has helped patients with more than 100 diseases and medical conditions and which President Bush supported with hundreds of millions in federal funding.
The NIH rules say fertility clinics need only provide couples with the options available at that clinic, which likely do not include the possibility of adopting the human embryo to a couple wanting to allow the baby to grow to birth.
The guidelines also suggest that IVF doctors and human embryonic stem cell research scientists “should be” different people, but there is no requirement. That could result in the purposeful creation and destruction of human life rather than merely using "leftover" human embryos.
While the Obama-NIH guidelines prohibit NIH funds from funding cloning research they also re-state that the NIH can fund embryo-destructive research in spite of the Dickey-Wicker federal provision against funding research in which a human embryo is harmed.
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