Federal judge declines to lift stem cell research injunction

Federal judge declines to lift stem cell research injunction

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday denied [order, PDF] a motion to stay a preliminary injunction [order, PDF; JURIST report] issued in August barring government funding of stem cell research [JURIST news archive]. Chief Judge Royce Lamberth had granted the injunction on the basis that the federal funding violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a provision at Division F, Section 509 of the annual Omnibus Appropriations Act [2009 edition materials], which prohibits appropriated funds from financing research that involves the creation or destruction of human embryos. Lamberth rejected the motion to stay the injunction, saying:

Defendants are incorrect about much of their “parade of horribles” that will supposedly result from this Court’s preliminary injunction. … In this Court’s view, a stay would flout the will of Congress, as this Court understands what Congress has enacted in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Congress remains perfectly free to amend or revise the statute. This Court is not free to do so. Congress has mandated that the public interest is served by preventing taxpayer funding of research that entails the destruction of human embryos.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration appealed [JURIST report] the injunction, arguing that Lamberth’s holding 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. According to the filing, the injunction threatens 24 research projects, more than 1,300 jobs and $64 million in funding, as well as potentially millions of Americans who may benefit from medical advances in the field of stem cell research.

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 similar 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], which 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. In 2006, Bush vetoed a previous version [JURIST report] of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Senate to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, saying he would not provide federal funding for stem cell research because many consider the destruction of embryos to be murder.