Judge Halts Stem Cell Research Funding

August 23, 2010

Science and health advocates rejoiced last year when President Obama issued an executive order repealing George W. Bush's policy limiting the use of federal funds for stem cell research.  President Obama's order allowed the National Institutes of Health to conduct and fund stem cell research. A federal district court judge's decision today may reverse this modest progress toward finding treatment for a multitude of diseases and disabilities.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District Court for the District of Columbia today granted a preliminary injunction to halt federal funding of stem cell research, ruling that such research contravenes the express will of Congress.

Lamberth ruled that all embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of embryos in violation of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment included in federal spending legislation:

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. Thus, if ESC [embryonic stem cell] research is research in which an embryo is destroyed, the guidelines, by funding ESC research, violate the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.

Embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of an embryo, typically four or five days old, to remove "stem cells" that have the potential to develop into any cell in the body. Conservatives have objected that the destruction of human embryos is murder, as it ends what is purported to be a human life.

A Justice Department spokesperson indicated that the Department is reviewing the decision.