UPDATE: In a terse statement (pdf) released today—Thursday, Sept. 9—the U.S. Court of Appeals has issued a stay on the ruling of District Court judge Royce Lamberth against federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Earlier in the week, Lamberth refused to grant a stay on his own ruling; see below. This doesn’t mean the appeals court is siding with the Justice Department against Lamberth’s ruling; it simply means the three judges want adequate time to consider the ruling and its repercussions. And because the stay lasts until September 20 at least, the National Institutes of Health can re-up the $54 million in projects currently due for annual renewal.
The ruling stands, for now.
The Obama Administration asked U.S. District Court judge Royce Lamberth to grant a stay of his injunction against federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, insisting that it could trigger job losses and research setbacks. But yesterday the judge issued an order in which he refused to lift the ban, and dismissed the Justice Department’s arguments that the ruling would cause chaos by immediately shutting down all research.
Lamberth indicated that his injunction was less restrictive than had been interpreted by the Obama administration. “Defendants are incorrect about much of their ‘parade of horribles’ that will supposedly result from this Court’s preliminary injunction,” Lamberth wrote. The ruling did not necessarily apply to research that had been funded under guidelines issued during the Bush administration or that had previously been “awarded and funded,” Lamberth wrote. [Washington Post]
There had been some worry that Lamberth’s interpretation of the law meant no federal dollars could go to stem cell research if embryos had ever been destroyed to create the cell lines, whether or not a single penny of taxpayer money aided embryo destruction. That kind of reading could mean that even Bush-era limited stem cell research was illegal. Not so, the judge’s note says, and already-funded projects shouldn’t be affected, either.
As president George W. Bush allowed taxpayer-funded research on 21 stem cell lines. President Barack Obama expanded — up to 75 so far — the number that could be used if those who donated an embryo did so voluntarily and were told of other options, such as donating that embryo to another infertile woman. [AP]
The next move for the Obama administration is to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and try to sort out what they can and can’t fund in the meantime. We’ll keep you posted.
Previous coverage of this case:
80beats: Feds Challenge Judge’s Injunction Against Stem Cell Research
80beats: Stem Cell Decision Fallout: What’s Next, and Who Were the Plaintiffs?
80beats: Judge: Obama’s Expansion of Stem Cell Research Violates Federal Law