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Federal appeals court lifts stem cell research ban

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] granted a stay [text, PDF] Tuesday allowing federal funding for stem cell research [JURIST news archive] to continue pending a full appeal. After hearing oral arguments on Monday, the three-judge panel dissolved the temporary stay [order, PDF; JURIST report] issued earlier this month so it could have "sufficient opportunity to consider the merits" of the Obama's administration's emergency motion for stay. The temporary stay was replaced by a long-term stay, which will remain effective until the appeals court decides whether to overturn the preliminary injunction [order, PDF; JURIST report] issued in August by Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website]. The appeals court said the Obama administration had "satisfied the standards required for a stay pending appeal." The Obama administration sought the emergency stay earlier this month after Lamberth denied [order, PDF; JURIST report] a motion to stay his preliminary injunction.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration appealed [JURIST report] the injunction, arguing that Lamberth's ruling was overbroad, endangering an array of research across multiple programs and centers while only serving a very attenuated economic interest of the plaintiffs in the case. Last year, President Barack Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] permitting federal funding for some forms of embryonic stem cell research. Despite the executive order, Lamberth held that evidence showed that the plaintiffs were substantially likely to prevail based on existing law. The case was originally dismissed for lack of standing last October but was reinstated [JURIST reports] in June with only plaintiffs who claimed their ability to obtain funding for adult stem cell research was harmed by increased competition for federal funds after they were permitted to also be used for embryonic stem cell research. Those new guidelines reversed previous rules that limited government funding of embryonic stem cells to only cell lines that were in existence as of August 2001. Despite pressure from the scientific community, the previous administration refused changes to funding guidelines. In 2007, then-president George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 [S 5 materials] that was intended to relax funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The administration rejected the bill, saying it would compel taxpayers to support the destruction of human embryos.

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