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Court suspends judge’s stem cell ruling

WASHINGTON (BP)–A federal appeals court Thursday suspended a judge’s ruling that had blocked federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, meaning that such research again can take place, at least temporarily.

In a one-page order, the United States D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed federal judge Royce Lamberth’s Aug. 23 ruling and ordered the two parties to submit their briefs within days as to whether the stay should be extended. The plaintiffs’ briefs are due Sept. 14, the defendants’ briefs Sept. 20. The three-judge panel called it an “administrative stay” that will remain in place while it considers whether it will grant the Obama administration’s request for a longer stay.

The three-judge panel — all appointed by Republican presidents — said the “purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for stay” and “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion.”

On Aug. 23 Lamberth issued a temporary injunction blocking federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, ruling it violated the text of what is known as the Dicker-Wicker Amendment, which bars research “in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” Lamberth has yet to issue a final ruling in the case, although his injunction said the pro-life coalition that filed the suit has a “strong likelihood” of winning.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is involved in the suit and is part of a legal team representing the pro-life coalition, responded to the latest news by saying Lamberth’s ruling was right.

“The American people should not be forced to pay for even one more day of experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate an existing federal law,” ADF attorney Steven H. Aden said in a statement. “The district court’s decision simply enforced that law, which prevents Americans from paying another penny for needless research on human embryos made irrelevant by adult stem cell and other research. In economic times like we are in now, it doesn’t make sense for the federal government to use precious taxpayer dollars for this illegal and unethical purpose.”

Lamberth was nominated by President Reagan. The three judges who blocked his ruling were nominated by President George H.W. Bush (Karen LeCraft Henderson) and President George W. Bush (Thomas Beall Griffith and Janice Rogers Brown).

Lamberth’s injunction did not impact federal funding of adult stem research or induced pluripotent stem cell research (iPS), each of which has shown more promise than embryonic research. Neither involves embryos. Adult stem cell treatment has led to treatments for 73 diseases and ailments, according to the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics. IPS research has yet to lead to any treatments, but scientists on both sides of the ethical debate say it is promising. IPS research involves turning skin cells into stem cells that have embryonic qualities. Dr. Oz, of “Oprah” fame, said in 2009 he believed researchers were “single-digit years” away from finding treatments using induced pluripotent stem cells.
Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For a Q&A on stem cell research, visit http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=33612.

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