Judge Issues Temporary Ban on Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction against President Obama's March 2009 executive order allowing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, the New York Times reports (Harris, New York Times, 8/23).
Lamberth's ruling also temporarily blocks NIH from providing financial grants for the research under new guidelines by the Obama administration.
A total of 75 stem cell colonies have been approved since NIH authorized new guidelines on such research last year (Stein/Hsu, Washington Post, 8/24).
In his 15-page ruling, Lamberth said that the Obama administration's policy to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research violated a 1996 law known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (Smith/Jan, Boston Globe, 8/24).
Lamberth wrote, "As demonstrated by the plain language of the [1996 law], the unambiguous intent of Congress is to prohibit the expenditure of federal funds on 'research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed'" (Yost, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/23).
He added, "This prohibition encompasses all research in which an embryo is destroyed, not just the 'piece of research' in which the embryo is destroyed" (Phillip, Politico, 8/23).
Lamberth also ruled that two researchers from Boston and Seattle -- who filed a lawsuit challenging the 2009 Obama executive order, stating that the new guidelines would "result in increased competition for limited federal funding" -- and other researchers have the authority to sue the government (Washington Post, 8/24).
Lamberth initially rejected the suit, but the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. on June 25 ruled that the plaintiffs had legal standing to file the suit, the Washington Post reports.
Although Lambert's ruling does not block the government from taking the case to trial, the judge noted that the plaintiffs' claim is strong enough to stop federal authorities from "taking any action whatsoever" to implement funding guidelines pending trial.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said the ruling was being reviewed and declined to discuss how the Obama administration would respond (Washington Post, 8/24).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.