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Bioethics, News, Statements, Stem Cell Research

Court Strikes Down Obama Administration Embryonic Stem Cell Policy

Washington, D.C.—A U.S. District Court today halted the Obama Administration’s illegal and unethical policy of funding research that necessarily entails the destruction of human embryos. Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction against the Administration’s policy in the case Sherley v. Sebelius.

“Since 1996, Congress has been clear that no federal funds are to be used in research that destroys, or even harms, embryos,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO of Americans United for Life. “The Obama Administration has attempted to skirt the law by arguing that they are only funding research after the embryos are destroyed. Today’s sensible ruling reconfirms what we already knew, that Administration policy is in violation of  the law.”

On March 9, 2009, President Obama, by executive order, directed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to issue new stem cell guidelines to include the funding of human embryonic stem cell research.

Since 1996, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment has expressly banned NIH from funding research in which human embryos “are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”[1] The amendment has been renewed every year by Congress.

Attorneys defending the Obama Administration’s policy argued that since the federal government is only funding research on stem cells after being extracted from the embryos, and not the actual destruction of the embryos, the NIH guidelines are not violating the law.

However, that interpretation would require a strained reading of the Dickey-Wicker amendment. The Obama Administration policy of funding human embryonic stem cell research incentivizes the destruction of human embryos. Further, it is common sense that destroying embryos and using them in research are part of a common project.

Judge Lamberth held the policy violated the clear language of the law:

“The Dickey-Wicker Amendment unambiguously prohibits the use of federal funds for all research in which a human embryo is destroyed. It is not limited to prohibit federal funding of only the ‘piece of research’ in which an embryo is destroyed. … Despite defendants’ attempt to separate the derivation of [embryonic stem cells] from research on [embryonic stem cells], the two cannot be separated. Derivation of [embryonic stem cells] from an embryo is an integral step in conducting [embryonic stem cell] research.”

Since the Obama Administration policy violates the law, Judge Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction to stop funding of human embryonic stem cell research.

[1] Public Law 104-99, sec. 128, U.S. Statutes at Large 110 (January 26, 1996): 34, http://history.nih.gov/research/downloads/PL104.99.pdf.