Obama’s Forcing Taxpayers to Fund Embryonic Research Gets Hearing

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 6, 2010   |   8:00PM   |   Washington, DC

A federal appeals court held a hearing on Monday in a lawsuit filed seeking to overturn the executive order President Barack Obama issued forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research.

Three judges questions attorneys representing adult stem cell research scientists and the Obama administration on the question of wether such funding it legal.

The scientists say the funding violates the Dickey-Wicker law passed in 1996 that prohibits federal funding of any research that involves the destruction of human embryos, which is necessary to obtain their stem cells.

Judge Royce Lamberth put an injunction in place in August and the three judges, who gave no indication of which way they would lean, will decide if that should be overturned. Lamberth found that federally funded embryonic stem cell research does violate the law and froze funding until the appeals court lifted the injunction pending this hearing a decision.

Department of Justice attorney Beth Brinkmann argued Lamberth’s decision was “fundamentally flawed” because the government is supposedly funding the embryonic stem cells and not the human embryos themselves.

Judge Thomas Griffith then asked whether embryos, unique human beings, and their stem cells are “inextricably intertwined” and so “both should be banned together?”

Griffith also seemed skeptical of the government’s argument that congressional reports have affirmed the guidelines the NIH put forward to implement Obama’s decision. he pointed out that the original sponsor of the law, pro-life Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, disagrees with Obama’s executive order.

Thomas Hungar, the attorney for the stem cell research scientists who sued, saying the federal funding would deprive them of funds for adult stem cell research, argued the Obama administration regulations violate the Dickey-Wicker policy and create a financial incentive for scientists to destroy human embryos for research.

“There is now an incentive for the future destruction of human embryos,” said Hunger. “It creates more than a minimal risk.”

Still, the judges noted they could uphold the injunction, even if they believe Dickey-Wicker is violated by the funding, if they don’t believe the adult stem cell scientists are sufficiently harmed.

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson asked questions of both sides as did Judge Douglas Ginsburg and Judge Griffith was part of the panel that stayed the injunction.

A ruling in the case is expected after the first of the year.

Alliance Defense Fund legal counsel Matt Bowman talked with the Christian Post about the case and said that, while it continues, the Obama administration continues to make taxpayers fund embryonic stem cell research.

“The government is shoveling tax dollars out the door while it can,” he said. “Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law.”

“They focused more on that desire (to explore the alleged benefits of embryonic stem cell research) than the statutes that say taxpayer money should not be spent in this destructive way,” Bowman said of the Obama administration’s attorneys.

James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, two scientists who work with adult stem cells, filed suit last year. 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.

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.

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.

The Dickey-Wicker law states: “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for (1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero.”

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