Pro-Life Advocates Hail Ruling Against Obama’s Embryonic Stem Cell Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 25, 2010   |   12:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Advocates Hail Ruling Against Obama’s Embryonic Stem Cell Funding

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 24
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — Leading pro-life groups and advocates were quick to respond to a judge’s decision on Monday saying the executive order President Barack Obama issued forcing taxpayers to finance embryonic stem cell research violates the Dickey-Wicker law prohibiting paying for the destruction of human embryos.

A U.S. District Court halted the Obama Administration’s
policy of funding research that necessarily entails the destruction of human embryos.

Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction against the Administration’s policy in the case Sherley v. Sebelius.

“Since 1996, Congress has been clear that no federal funds are to be used in research that destroys, or even harms, embryos,” said Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life.

“The Obama Administration has attempted to skirt the law by arguing that they are only funding research after the embryos are destroyed," she told, adding that the "sensible ruling reconfirms what we already knew, that Administration policy is in violation of the law."

On March 9, 2009, President Obama, by executive order, directed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to issue new stem cell guidelines to include the funding of human embryonic stem cell research.

Since 1996, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment has expressly banned NIH from funding research in which human embryos “are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” The amendment has been renewed every year by Congress.

Attorneys defending the Obama Administration’s policy argued that since the federal government is only funding research on stem cells after being extracted from the embryos, and not the actual destruction of the embryos, the NIH guidelines are not violating the law.

However, that interpretation would require a strained reading of the Dickey-Wicker amendment, Yoest says.

"The Obama Administration policy of funding human embryonic stem cell research incentivizes the destruction of human embryos. Further, it is common sense that destroying embryos and using them in research are part of a common project," she said.

Congressman Mike Pence, one of the top Republicans in the House, also hailed the decision.

“I applaud Judge Royce Lamberth’s ruling which blocks federal funding for research that destroys human embryos. It is morally wrong to create human life in order to destroy it for research and it is wrong that the tax dollars of millions of pro-life Americans have been used to fund this destructive research," he said in a statement to “Judge Lamberth rightly noted that it has been the ‘unambiguous intent of Congress to prohibit’ such funding. The president overrode that intent last year, but it is my hope that common sense and the rule of law will prevail to prevent further taxpayer funding of the destruction of human life.”

“Embryonic stem cell research has failed to provide a single treatment to a living patient. However, science has made great breakthroughs with the ethical use of adult stem cells; therefore, it does not make sense to spend tax dollars on the morally divisive practice of destructive embryonic research," he added.

And Advocates International, part of the public interest legal team along with the Alliance Defense Fund litigating the case for stem cell researchers opposed to Obama’s order, also weighed in with a response.

‘The preliminary injunction issued yesterday for the time being brings to an end the unlawful use of taxpayer dollars to fund research that will result in the destruction of human embryos," it said. "Since 1994, in what has been popularly known as its Dickey-Wicker Amendment to each HHS Appropriations Bill, Congress has expressly banned NIH from funding" the research.

Judge Lamberth held the policy violated the clear language of the law:

“The Dickey-Wicker Amendment unambiguously prohibits the use of federal funds for all research in which a human embryo is destroyed. It is not limited to prohibit federal funding of only the ‘piece of research’ in which an embryo is destroyed. … Despite defendants’ attempt to separate the derivation of [embryonic stem cells] from research on [embryonic stem cells], the two cannot be separated. Derivation of [embryonic stem cells] from an embryo is an integral step in conducting [embryonic stem cell] research.”

Since the Obama Administration policy violates the law, Judge Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction to stop funding of human embryonic stem cell research.

The district court’s opinion followed the decision by the United States Court of Appeals earlier this summer finding that doctors doing adult stem cell research have ‘competitive standing’ to sue.


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