Bill Aims To Get Around Judge’s Ruling on Stem Cell Research Funding
On Monday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) introduced a bill (S 3766) that would update guidelines on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and circumvent a recent ruling by a U.S. district court judge that temporarily prohibited such funding, CQ Today reports (Ethridge, CQ Today, 9/13).
On Aug. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting federal funding for stem cell research allowed under President Obama's stem cell research guidelines, ruling that the policy violates a 1996 law known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits expending federal funds for "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed.
On Sept. 7, Lamberth rejected the administration's request to lift the preliminary injunction while it appealed his initial decision. The Department of Justice had argued that Lamberth's ban would jeopardize millions of dollars intended for projects already under way and prevent "significant additional medical breakthroughs."
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., temporarily lifted the injunction to give its judges time to consider the merits of Lamberth's decision and the Obama administration's counterarguments. The panel noted that its ruling "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits" of the case (California Healthline, 9/10).
Details on Specter's Bill
Specter said his bill would permit federal funding only for research on embryos that would otherwise be discarded. He said, "It is either use them for medical research to save lives, or throw them away," adding, "If these embryos could be turned into human life, I would not under any circumstances advocate scientific research" (CQ Today, 9/13).
Specter said the legislation is important because even a temporary gap in research opportunity on the cells could threaten crucial medical research. He said, "The uncertainty created by the [Lamberth] ruling slows the progress of science" (Rushing, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/13).
Other Lawmakers Also Have Introduced Legislation
Specter is not the only lawmakerÂ who has introduced legislation addressing federal funding for stem cell research.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced a bill (S 487), which the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee will consider during a Sept. 16 hearing.
In addition, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Michael Castle (R-Del.) have introduced various bills aimed at maintaining the research. DeGette argues that Congress can pass legislation saying the research is not subject to the 1996 legislation because federal funding would not be used for work on the actual embryos (CQ Today, 9/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.