Court to Hear Lawsuit on Obama’s Embryonic Stem Cell Funds

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 2, 2010   |   12:30PM   |   Washington, DC

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will hear oral arguments Monday in the appeal of a lower court ruling related to the lawsuit brought by stem cell research scientists.

They filed suit against the executive order President Barack Obama issued forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research — even though it has never helped any patients and requires the destruction of human life.

The appellate court will address the ruling by the lower court that the Obama administration’s NIH Guidelines processing the funding violate federal law because they authorize taxpayer funding of stem cell research that necessarily destroys living human embryos, in violation of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. That’s a federal law that disallows funding of research that destroys human embryos.

The Bioethics Defense Fund has filed an amicus brief on behalf of Dr. Maureen Condic, a research scientist and professor. The legal paper presents the D.C. Circuit with a concise yet cogent scientific white paper authored by Dr. Condic entitled, When Does Human Life Begin: A Scientific Perspective.

“It is important for the Court to understand the scientific evidence presented in our amicus brief because it solidly addresses the common misperception that the question of when human life begins cannot be resolved,” Condic told on Wednesday. “This question has been entirely resolved by modern scientific investigation.”

“While the moral and legal status of human beings at early stages of development remain as issues to be addressed by law and public policy, the public and the courts should be made aware that the scientific facts are unambiguous; based on universally accepted scientific criteria, human embryos are clearly human organisms, i.e., human beings, and not merely collections of cells,” Dr. Condic added.

BDF attorney Dorinda Bordlee told, the brief it filed for Condic is “foundational.”

That’s because “any credible policy regarding research on human beings at the embryonic stage of life must first address the serious ethical and legal regulations that Congress has already enacted regarding research that harms or destroys human subjects.” 

Bordlee, explained in the amicus brief that “the Obama administration has never even raised, much less engaged the central moral question posed by embryonic stem cell research, namely, the moral status of the human embryo used and destroyed in this context.”  [related]

Nikolas Nikas, BDF president and general counsel, added that the litigation is of critical importance because the Obama policy disregards the will of Congress based on the consciences of citizens who do not want their tax dollars used to support research that makes them complicit in the intentional destruction of human lives.” 

Circuit Judges Ginsburg, Henderson and Griffith will participate in the oral arguments on Monday morning.

In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit lifted the injunction Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington put in place that stopped taxpayer funding during the duration of the lawsuit.

The Obama administration appealed Lamberth’s decision and the three judge panel of the appeals court issued its decision today.

Justice Department attorney Beth Brinkmann argued that the injunction would result in “irreparable harm” to the Obama administration’s efforts to funds scientists engaging in research that has never helped any patients because of massive problems with injecting the embryonic stem cells in animals.

Unlike its embryonic cousin, adult stem cell research does not have the same tumor-causing or immune system-rejecting issues and has been used already to help patients dealing with more than 100 diseases and medical conditions.

“Upon consideration of the government’s emergency motion to stay preliminary injunction pending appeal and for immediate administrative stay, the opposition thereto, the reply, and the argument by counsel, it is ORDERED that the administrative stay entered September 9, 2010, be dissolved,” the court ruled.

“It is FURTHER ORDERED that the motion for stay pending appeal of the preliminary injunction entered on August 23, 2010, be granted. Appellants have satisfied the standards required for a stay pending appeal,” the appellate court added.

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.