Supreme Court Asked to Stop Obama’s Embryonic Stem Cell Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 10, 2012   |   6:23PM   |   Washington, DC

Two pro-life legal groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to review an appellate court ruling that allows President Barack Obama to force Americans to fund embryonic stem cell research with their tax dollars.

“Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law–especially in economic times like these,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden.

He told LifeNews: “Congress designed that law so that Americans don’t pay any more precious taxpayer dollars for needless research made irrelevant by adult stem cell and other research. The law is clear, and we hope the U.S. Supreme Court will see the need to uphold its clear intent.”

Samuel B. Casey of the Jubilee Campaign’s Law of Life Project and pro-life attorney Tom Hungar of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, are working with ADF on the case.

Hungar stated: “The challenged NIH Guidelines clearly violate the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, but NIH’s decision to turn a blind eye to tens of thousands of comments demonstrating that human embryonic stem cell research can’t be justified even under the government’s own criteria means that the NIH’s guidelines were promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.”

Nevertheless, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals incorrectly held that NIH’s refusal to address numerous comments that it received in promulgating the Guidelines was justified by an executive order (Executive Order 13,505) issued by President Obama.

The pro-life legal groups represent research scientists opposed to the Obama administration policy that authorized the National Institutes of Health, a federal agency, to fund additional research projects that destroy human embryos. That policy violates a federal law known as the Dickey/Wicker Amendment, which specifically prohibits such funding.

The petition for certiorari filed with the Supreme Court in Sherley v. Sebelius charges that the appeals court was in error when it ruled that it was bound by the reasoning of its earlier split decision in the case. That decision reversed a temporary restraining order that the lower court had issued against the administration’s policy. The petition also argues that the National Institutes of Health violated federal law when it intentionally disregarded tens of thousands of citizen comments lodged against its proposed guidelines.

The petition states, “The D.C. Circuit in this case upheld Guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health (‘NIH’) providing for federal funding of certain types of human stem-cell research. That decision contravenes this Court’s precedent and creates conflict and confusion among the circuits….”

Petitioners, Drs. James L. Sherley and Theresa Deisher, initially brought this case over three years ago when, in response to President Obama’s March 9, 2009, Executive Order, the NIH published and noticed for public comment regulatory guidelines allowing federal funds to be used for the first time for the creation of new stem cell lines (hESC) requiring and providing incentives for the destruction of living human embryos.



The Petitioners contended then — and, indeed, continue to argue — that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guidelines for funding human embryonic stem-cell research are invalid because they not only disregard the limitations in the Executive Order but also violate the federal law known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment and because they were promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

After the NIH initially promulgated its proposed guidelines, they received approximately 49,000 public comments, more than 60% of which — that is, approximately 30,000 — raised serious and highly relevant questions about the ethics and scientific merits of human embryonic stem cell research.

The NIH refused to consider those comments, however, erroneously saying that the President’s Executive Order precluded such consideration that would otherwise have been required by the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Jubilee Campaign Law of Life Project’s General Counsel, Sam Casey, said: ‘Each time federal grant money is awarded to support human embryonic stem cell research, living human embryos are at risk.  Not only is this an ethical tragedy, as well as a waste of taxpayers’ money on unethical research that has not to date led to any therapeutic benefits, but it is also a clear violation of federal law.  The President, by authorizing NIH non-compliance with federal law, has overstepped his legal boundaries, and it is imperative that the Supreme Court step in to provide the needed constitutional check. The Constitution and the Supreme Court say Congress enacts the laws in this country, not the Executive Branch.”

Of the petition David Prentice, Ph.D., senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Life and Bioethics, made the following comments:

“Even as the Nobel Prize committee honors Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka for introducing ethical induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to the field of medicine, the Obama administration is fighting to continue wasting taxpayer money on unethical embryonic stem cell research, which relies on the destruction of young human life. A plain reading of federal law would specifically prohibit funding of embryonic stem cell research. After years of wasting taxpayer dollars as well as lives on ethically-tainted experiments, it’s time for the federal government to start putting that money into lifesaving and ethical adult stem cell research, the gold standard for patient treatments. Such research is saving thousands of lives now – lives like that of Chloe Levine who beat cerebral palsy with the help of adult stem cells. Each precious life at every stage and every age deserves our respect, and we should devote our resources and time to the ethical stem cell research that has the best chance of preserving life – adult stem cells.

“We are pleased to see this suit move forward, and hope that the Supreme Court will agree to its review and uphold the clear intent of federal law to protect human life from experimentation.”