Court Extends Stem Cell Funding Indefinitely

Court rules to fund embryonic stem cell research. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has said “yes” to the Obama administration’s request to allow the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.  The ruling extends a temporary decision issued by the same court.  Earlier, Judge Royce Lamberth had issued an injunction that shut down NIH funding for new embryonic stem cell research, claiming the government is violating the Dickey-Wicker amendment by using federal funds to support human embryonic stem cell research.

Stem cell researchers reacted with shock to the cut-off of funding, which forced the NIH to withdraw 50 grants that were awaiting peer review and put a hold on 22 grants that were up for yearly renewal.  Thanks to the recent decision, the NIH has started funding stem cell research again.

The Obama administration praised the court’s decision.  “President Obama made expansion of stem cell research and the pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures a top priority when he took office,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.  “We’re heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved.”  In March of 2009, President Obama issued an executive order that rescinded former President George W. Bush’s order that had banned using federal funds for embryonic stem cell research on lines derived after a certain date.  In the last 1½ years, the NIH has approved 74 new embryonic stem cell lines for research purposes.

Ron Stoddart, a member of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, filed the lawsuit.  The organization helps people adopt embryos that are stored in fertilization clinics. According to Stoddart, the case is likely to be controversial for some time.  “I think that eventually Congress has to step up and deal with it,” he said.

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