According to the Washington Post, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a temporary stay of a federal judge’s block on stem cell research. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled in an Aug. 23 lawsuit that funding embryonic stem cell research violated federal rules originally passed by Congress in 1996 preventing the destruction of embryos. His ruling effectively blocked funding of embryonic stem cell research. The Justice Department appealed the ruling to the Circuit Court in response. The temporary administrative stay reverses Lamberth’s ruling, pending a full appeal of the case.
Researchers were informed by the National Institutes of Health that their funding would continue, but would not be renewed following Lamberth’s original ruling.
Back in 2001, then-President George W. Bush issued an executive order that banned federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The only exception was made for already existing lines of cells. The decision sparked a long-standing debate between supporters of embryonic stem cell research and those opposing. Supporters have included Michael J. Fox, John McCain, President Barrack Obama, Nancy Reagan, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Opposing embryonic stem cell research are Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Sam Brownback. Democrats are usually for federal funding, while Republicans remain divided on the subject.
Lisa Hughes, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, said of the decision “We are very pleased that the Court of Appeals has stayed the preliminary injunction. It is crucial that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research be restored permanently and this stay is a step in that direction,” according to the Washington Post.
The stay issued by the Circuit Court makes it clear that the judges are withholding an opinion on whether federal funding can be continued indefinitely, but the decision to permit funding in the meanwhile points to a generally favorable atmosphere. Lamberth had refused to stay his own decision earlier, indicating a hard-line approach to the subject. The decision will be made after Sept. 20, according to the Wall Street Journal. Until the final decision is made, supporters and opponents are unlikely to accept the status quo, though it seems very doubtful that the issue will be significant during the election season with jobs and health care on most voter’s minds.
Katherine Hobson, “Court Ruling Means Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Can (Temporarily) Proceed” Wall Street Journal
Rob Stein, “Appeals court lifts ban on stem cell funding” Washington Post