Pro-Life Lawsuit Filed to Stop Obama’s Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 20, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Lawsuit Filed to Stop Obama’s Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 20
, 2009

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A pro-life legal group has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the controversial guidelines the National Institutes of Health used to implement President Barack Obama’s decision to force taxpayers to finance embryonic stem cell research.

Advocates International filed suit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Francis Collins as head of the National Institute of Health.

The lawsuit 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.

According to Thomas G. Hungar, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, which includes the Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Medical Association, "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 late Wednesday.

The plaintiffs contend that the NIH guidelines violate the congressional ban because they "necessarily condition funding on the destruction of human embryos."

In addition, the plaintiffs also allege that the NIH guidelines were invalidly implemented, because the decision to fund human embryonic stem cell research was made without the proper procedures required by law and without properly considering the more effective and less ethically problematic forms of adult and induced pluripotent stem cell research.

One of the expert stem cell researcher plaintiffs, Dr. James L. Sherley, a former MIT professor and scientist, explained that "the great irony of the guidelines is that research involving stem cells safely derived from human adults and other sources presents the same if not greater potential for medical breakthroughs, without any of the troubling legal and ethical issues related to embryonic stem- cell research."

He said clinical trials using adult stem cells have successfully reversed the effects of diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. David Stevens, the director of the Christian Medical Association also commented to LifeNews.com on the case.

"We are opposed to this proposed illegal and unethical federal funding of destructive embryonic research that would compel every American to cooperate with such unlawful human experimentation," he said.

He said the Obama guidelines allow "the violation of our fundamental medical research ethic never to lethally experiment on one human being simply to benefit the interests of other human beings."

Co-counsel for the plaintiffs, Sam Casey, General Counsel of Advocates International’s Law of Life Project, a public interest legal project specializing in cutting-edge bio-ethical issues, also weighed in on the case.

He pointed out how 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.

"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," he said.

Dr. Theresa Deisher, the founder, managing member, and research and development director of AVM Biotechnology; Nightlight Christian Adoptions, a non-profit, licensed adoption agency dedicated to protecting and finding adoptive parents for human embryos conceived through in vitro fertilization, are also involved in the lawsuit.

The 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.

The NIH guidelines also say the NIH plans to allow federal funding on embryonic stem cell lines created prior to July 7, 2009 even though some of those lines were created under circumstances that would not satisfy the new NIH requirements.

Now that the guidelines have been released, pro-life groups including the National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are worried Congress will adopt a bill that would overturn the Dickey-Wicker amendment.

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