Obama Admin to Appeal Embryonic Stem Cell Funding Decision This Week

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 30, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Obama Admin to Appeal Embryonic Stem Cell Funding Decision This Week

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 30
, 2010

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The Obama administration is expected to officially appeal later this week a federal judge’s decision to halt President Barack Obama’s executive order forcing Americans to fund embryonic stem cell research through their tax dollars. The judge said the order violated federal law.

Last Monday, District Judge Royce Lamberth blocked Obama’s 2009 executive order that had expanded federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

The Obama administration sent $131 million to researchers across the country to conduct research on the unproven cells, which have never helped patients because of problems with using the cells in animals — as they cause tumors and are rejected by the immune system.

However, Lamberth ruled the funding violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a law Congress has approved annually since 1996 which precluded federal funding of research that destroys human embryos. Embryonic stem cells can currently only be obtained by destroying unique human beings days after conception.

Judge Lamberth ruled that the administration’s policy violated the law, which bans federal financing for any “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."

He said the law is clear in that Congress wanted bans federal financing for any “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."

The Justice Department said last Tuesday it will appeal Judge Lamberth’s decision later this week.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, which awards the funds, said 143 scientific grants worth $95 million, which are now up for annual renewal, will be frozen. Another 22 grants totaling $54 million, whose existing research is coming up for renewal in September, will also be frozen.

And 131 grants awarded this year already are not affected but they will be if the funding is blocked when their renewal comes up.

Steven Aden, a lead attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the adult stem cell researchers who filed the case against the Obama administration, applauded the decision.

"The American people should not be forced to pay for experiments — prohibited by federal law — that destroy human life," he said. "The court is simply enforcing an existing law passed by Congress that prevents Americans from paying another penny for needless research on human embryos."

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a top Catholic bioethics expert, said the decision is consonant not only with the plain sense of the Dickey-Wicker amendment, but also with the kind of moral reasoning that rejects a false “criterion of independence” or “radical separation of the act from its subsequent uses and applications.”

The judge said Dickey-Wicker “unambiguously’’ prohibits the use of federal funds for all research in which a human embryo is destroyed — Judge Royce Lamberth ruled, “not just the ‘piece of research’ in which the embryo is destroyed.’’

Pacholczyk said the Obama administration "had supported a position where federal funding of human embryo destruction itself would not be permitted while research on cells derived from such destruction would be funded. The recent Vatican document Dignitas Personae had already emphasized the contradictory character implicit in such a stance."

"The criterion of independence is not sufficient to avoid a contradiction in the attitude of the person who says that he does not approve of the injustice perpetrated by others, but at the same time accepts for his own work the “biological material” which the others have obtained by means of that injustice," the document says.

Pacholczyk, of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said he "hopes this important court decision will encourage the federal government and all of its health-care agencies to renew and expand their commitment to ethically sound avenues of stem cell research."

And Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe, who supports embryonic stem cell research, said it should be funded with private funds, not taxpayer dollars.

"Lamberth’s ruling makes this a good moment to ask a threshold question: Why should the federal government be funding controversial medical research in the first place?" he writes. "In this as in so many other areas, perhaps it’s time to re-think Washington’s role."

A new poll found only 33% of U.S. voters believe that taxpayer money should be spent on embryonic stem cell research.

 

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