Court Questions Obama Admin Lawyers on Embryonic Research Funding Appeal

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 27, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Court Questions Obama Admin Lawyers on Embryonic Research Funding Appeal

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 27
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — The Obama administration argued with an appeals court on Monday to overturn the decision a federal judge issued to temporarily halt taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research that destroys human lives to produce. They claimed the temporary funding ban would hurt scientific research.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is considering whether or not to reverse the temporary injunction U.S. district court Judge Royce Lamberth granted while the lawsuit continues.

The Obama administration appealed the decision and the U.S. Court of Appeals put the injunction on hold pending today’s hearing.

Once the injunction issue is decided, Judge Lamberth will issue a ruling on the lawsuit itself, which adult stem cell research scientists filed against the executive order President Barack Obama issued forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research.

The appeals court originally allowed both sides 15 minutes to make their case, but the Associated Press indicates the judges wound up questioning the attorneys for more than an hour.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Beth Brinkmann told the appeals court judges the injunction would hurt scientists’ embryonic stem cell research, even though the research has never helped human beings and suffers from massive problems when used to treat animals. The rulings only involve scientists working with federal funds, not private dollars.

Judge Thomas Griffith appeared skeptical about Brinkmann’s claims that the entire work $64 million has funded would go to waste.

"All $64 million is completely ruined?" Griffith asked. "They don’t keep lab notebooks?"

AP indicates Brinkmann responded, "it would be a setback for the field. Biological material would be destroyed."

Thomas Hungar, an attorney for the scientists, argued that Judge Lamberth was right when he said the injunction would not hurt the work of scientists because they could obtain private funding.

He said the Court of Appeals in this case "has already held that adult stem cell researchers like Drs. Sherley and Deisher suffer ‘actual,’ ‘imminent’ injury from competition with embryonic stem cell research for scare federal funding."

To Hungar, the adult stem cell research scientists would be hurt if the injunction were lifted because NIH is moving aggressively to send tends of millions more in federal funds to embryonic scientists.

Sam Casey, another pro-life attorney working on the lawsuit, told that granting a stay pending appeal, even of short duration, would "flout[] the will of Congress," and that "the public interest is served by preventing taxpayer funding of research that entails the destruction of human embryos."

Casey also noted that the government has provided "no explanation based on science or the merits of the competing proposals to justify allowing human embryonic stem cell applications to leapfrog proposals filed by Appellees or any other NIH grant applicants."

"To the contrary, there is only one explanation for NIH’s actions–an ideological preference for spending as much federal money as practicable on illegal hESC research," he added. "Because the entire purpose of the district court’s preliminary injunction was to prevent the evaporation of such funds, a stay pending appeal would irreparably injure Appellants and the public interest."

Although tens of millions in federal embryonic research grant funds have already been spent, the question after the temporary injunction was issued was whether scientists should be spending unused, previously-awarded federal grant money on current embryonic stem cell research projects.

Despite the law and the injunction, NIH issued new guidance for researchers who have already received federal funds for their embryonic stem cell projects saying they can essentially disregard the ruling.

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.

In his ruling, Judge Royce 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. "Embryonic stem cell (ESC) research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo," and he concluded that funding such research violates existing law.

Steven Aden, a lead attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund applauded Lamberth’s 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."

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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