Shock as Judge Blocks Stem Cell Research Funding

A loophole even the Bush administration used is closed

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Federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research is, for the moment, over. On Monday, a federal judge ruled that funding even for research following up on earlier studies that involved embryo destruction violates federal law. That sets the Obama administration (and many researchers) back a bit.

  • What the Decision Says Hot Air's Allahpundit and Think Progress's Ian Millhiser each explain the law involved: it's the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which bans federal funding for research involving the destruction of a human embryo. Under the Obama administration, federal funds have still been used for "research on stem-cell lines derived from killed embryos," explains Allahpundit. "In other words, no federal funding for step one in the process, the killing of the embryo, but federal funding for the rest of the process is okay." The question in this case was whether that policy violates Dickey-Wicker--the judge decided that it did.
  • 'A Major Blow to American Medical Research,' writes Steve Benen, adding that "legal experts and policy specialists are still trying to sort out the implications." Ian Millhiser of Think Progress thinks the decision is "difficult to square ... with Supreme Court precedent," since "judges are normally supposed to defer to an agency;s reading of a federal law unless the agency's interpretation is entirely implausible and the Obama administration quite plausibly read the Dickey-Wicker Amendment to only prohibit federal funding of the actual destruction of an embryo--not federal funding of subsequent ESC research."
  • More Conservative than Bush-Era Policies Millhiser also points out that the decision makes the law tighter than what it was under Bush, who "allowed federal funding for research on existing embryonic stem cell lines, but would not allow new lines to be created. Today's opinion even forbids such entirely uncontroversial research." Conservative Hot Air's Allahpundit admits he is similarly perplexed: "It sounds like the court's decision would have found even Bush's policy in violation of Dickey-Wicker."
  • The People Behind the Case ShortFormBlog's Ernie Smith unearths "an interesting wrinkle": the researchers behind the lawsuit didn't file it "for moral reasons.
Instead, Dr. James Sher­ley and Theresa Deisher work with adult stem cells [rather than embryonic stem cells] and were afraid that Obama's new rules would cut into the fund­ing for their work because of increased com­pe­ti­tion. In other words, they're selfish.
  • What Happens Next "It's Congress's move now," writes Allahpundit. "They can either clarify Dickey-Wicker to okay funding for research on stem-cell lines derived from killed embryos, or [the administration] can put their heads together to try to draft more clever language that will comply with the statute." Either way, he continues, "given the likelihood of a much redder Congress next year, they'd better hurry up."
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