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Federal judge dismisses stem cell research funding challenge

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's decision [JURIST report] to ease restrictions on stem cell research [JURIST news archive]. Nightlight Christian Adoptions [advocacy website] claimed that the removal of restrictions on stem cell research would lower the number of embryos available for adoption. Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that this claim was speculative and that for Nightlight to have standing to sue they would need to show that donors were choosing to donate embryos for research instead of adoption:

[T]he Court finds that Nightlight lacks standing because its alleged injury is "mere 'unadorned speculation' as to the existence of a relationship between the [guidelines] and the third-party conduct." Indeed, if Nightlight suffers any injury at all, it will be because of the choices of third parties not before this court, and not because of the guidelines.

Executive director of Nightlight Rod Stoddart expressed his disappointment [NYT report] in the court's decision, stating that it had taken the "easy way out" and that his organization would consider filing an appeal.

The lawsuit was filed in August in response to the proposed guidelines [text; JURIST report] for funding human embryonic stem cell research released by the National Institute of Health (NIH) [official website] in April, which limited funding to embryos that were created to be used in fertility clinics but were no longer needed and would have been discarded. Additionally, the donor must have consented to giving the embryos for research purposes. The NIH guidelines reversed previous rules that limited government funding to only stem cell lines that were in existence as of August 2001.

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