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Judge Maintains Stay on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The federal judge who placed an injunction on embryonic stem cell research as part of a lawsuit has refused to lift the stay, as requested by the Obama Administration. Judge Royce Lamberth, a conservative Reagan appointee, dismissed the request and its threat of serious harm arising from the injunction. Lamberth described the government as “incorrect about much of their ‘parade of horribles’ that will supposedly result.”

Already, the National Institute of Health and other facilities said they would have to shut down their embryonic stem cell research operations in reaction to the injunction, putting hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of research on hold and costing 1,300 jobs, according to the Obama Administration.

The Administration has two options at this point. They could appeal to the 2nd Circuit in the District of Columbia and work through the courts, or they could seek a legislative remedy. Lamberth says that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment effectively bans federal funding for any research which involves the destruction of human embryos. For years, both the Bush and Obama Administrations got around this (with Obama going further in allowing the creation of new stem cell lines) by segregating the funds that go to destruction from the funds that go to research, but Lamberth is charging that such a scheme is insufficient. So Congress can provide a remedy by specifically sanctioning this kind of funding, apart from Dickey-Wicker. With the midterms looming and a long legislative calendar to work through, that’s unlikely. But it is the only enduring solution to this mess.

A Justice Department spokesman had no immediate comment. The Obama administration could file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and ask that it lift the injunction.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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