A federal judge has dismissed one of the lawsuits filed against President Barack Obama’s executive order forcing taxpayers to finance embryonic stem cell research involving the destruction of human life.
Last August, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that Obama executive order likely violates that law against federal funding of embryo destruction. But, in April, a federal appeals court ruled Obama can force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research that has never helped any patients.
Responding to that decision, Judge Lamberth, today, dismissed the lawsuit Boston adult stem cell researcher James Shirley filed saying the decision discriminates against researchers who don’t use embryonic stem cells. Lamberth said he is bound to follow the appeals court decision and had no choice but to dismiss the lawsuit.
Just months after he took over the White House, Obama overturned the protections President George W. Bush put into place that prevented taxpayer funding of new embryonic stem cell research but pushed millions of dollars into research associated with adult stem cells, which have already helped patients with more than 100 diseases and medical conditions. Bush also pumped money into finding embryonic stem cell research alternatives that don’t involve destroying human embryos for their stem cells, and Obama overturned that executive order as well.
In lawsuits challenging the Obama executive order, plaintiffs contended the order violated the 1996 law known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment that prohibits the federal government from using taxpayer finds to destroy human embryos in scientific research.
Commenting on the decision, bioethicist and attorney Wesley J. Smith said it “is not Lamberth’s fault.”
“But, once again, the Clintonesque public policy expediency technique is used to get around the law through the playing of semantics games,” he said. “(I find this result akin to refusing to change the Controlled Substances Act to permit medical marijuana, and instead, just not enforcing the law as written.) I wish I were surprised, but I predicted this very outcome late last year.”
“The politics of this were always too white hot in our increasingly less principled country to permit a literal following of the clear purpose of Dickey/Wicker,” Smith added. “The next big fight in this field will be over federally funding human cloning research when, and if, that technology can be performed in humans. Until then, expect the status quo to continue.”
In his initial ruling, 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.
“(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.
“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.
The lawsuit, filed in August 2009, alleges that the guidelines governing destructive embryonic stem cell research implemented by the Obama administration in July “are contrary to law, were promulgated without observing the procedures required by law.”
A second lawsuit also says the guidelines violate the Dickey-Wicker appropriations provision regarding embryo research that prohibits federal funding of creating human embryos by any method, explicitly including human cloning, or any “research in which” human embryos are harmed in any way.
Thomas G. Hungar, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, which includes the Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Medical Association, said in 2009 when the lawsuit was filed, “the language of the [Dickey-Wicker] statute is clear” that it “bans public funding for any research that leads to the destruction of human embryos.”
“NIH’s attempt to avoid Congress’s command by funding everything but the act of ‘harvesting’ is pure sophistry. The guidelines will result in the destruction of human embryos and are unlawful, unethical, and unnecessary,” he told LifeNews.com at the time.
Sam Casey, General Counsel of Advocates International’s Law of Life Project, a public interest legal project involved in the case, pointed out that NIH officials have admitted they violated the public comment process by ignoring the majority of comments coming from pro-life advocates opposed to destroying unborn children for their stem cells.
“The majority of the almost 50,000 comments that the NIH received were opposed to funding this research, and by its own admission, NIH totally ignored these comments,” he said. “The so-called spare human embryos being stored in IVF clinics around the United States are not ‘in excess of need,’ as the NIH in its guidelines callously assert. They are human beings in need of biological or adoptive parents.”
The NIH rules say fertility clinics need only provide couples with the options available at that clinic, which likely do not include the possibility of adopting the human embryo to a couple wanting to allow the baby to grow to birth.
The guidelines also suggest that IVF doctors and human embryonic stem cell research scientists “should be” different people, but there is no requirement. That could result in the purposeful creation and destruction of human life rather than merely using “leftover” human embryos.
In 2001 President Bush established a policy allowing research on embryonic stem cell lines created prior to August 9, 2001. On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order overturning the Bush policy and allowing taxpayer funding for research on embryonic stem cell lines created after 2001.
A Rasmussen Poll released on Friday August 27, 2010, reveals that “only 33% of U.S. voters believe that taxpayer money should be spent on embryonic stem cell research” and 57% of those polled oppose taxpayer funding for controversial stem cell research that requires destruction of human embryos. The poll demonstrates that while American’s are less likely to believe embryo-destructive research is morally wrong, a majority oppose federal funding for the research.