The US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday overturned [opinion, PDF] last year's ruling that placed a preliminary injunction [text, PDF, JURIST report] on federal funding of embryonic stem cell [JURIST archive] research. In a 2-1 vote by a three-judge panel, the court concluded that those opposing the funding had not shown that their case was likely to succeed on the merits. Additionally, the court gave considerable weight to the inequity that the injunction would impose on researchers who rely on federal funding
The hardship a preliminary injunction would impose upon ... researchers ... would be certain and substantial. The injunction entered by the district court would preclude the NIH [National Institutes of Health] from funding new ... projects it has or would have deemed meritorious, thereby inevitably denying other scientists funds they would have received. Even more problematic, the injunction would bar further disbursements to ... researchers who have already begun multi-year projects in reliance upon a grant from the NIH; their investments in project planning would be a loss, their expenditures for equipment a waste, and their staffs out of a job.The Obama administration considers the ruling a major victory that will allow for scientists and patients around the world to benefit from the medical developments and discoveries that will arise from the research.
Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has been a long uphill battle for the Obama administration. In 2009, President Barack Obama [official website] signed [press release] an executive order [text; JURIST report] which removed the previous administration's eight-year restriction on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. After the preliminary injunction on stem research was granted last year, the Obama administration appealed [JURIST report] the injunction, arguing that the 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. While the appeals process was underway, the court granted a long-term stay which allowed federal funding to continue [JURIST report] while the court reached a decision.