On August 23, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction in the case Sherley v. Sebelius, ruling that there is sufficient evidence to warrant halting funding for embryo-destructive research while the case is under consideration. Specifically, the court found that the plaintiffs presented a strong case that NIH Guidelines for Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR) violate the Dickey-Wicker Amendment—language attached to the annual LHHS appropriations bills since 1996, which prohibits federal funding for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death. . .”
In 2001 President Bush established a policy allowing research on embryonic stem cell lines created prior to August 9, 2001. On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order overturning the Bush policy and allowing taxpayer funding for research on embryonic stem cell lines created after 2001. (NIH Guidelines were finalized on July 7, 2009)
Sherley v. Sebelius
The injunction puts National Institutes of Health funding for embryo-destructive research on hold. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth in his ruling stated “[Embryonic stem cell] research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed,“ and “Congress has spoken to the precise question at issue—whether federal funds may be used for research in which an embryo is destroyed. The Dickey-Wicker Amendment provides that no federal funds shall be used for ‘research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under 45 C.F.R. § 46.204(b) and section 498(b) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 289g(b)).’ Pub. L. No. 111-8, § 509(a)(2). Thus, as demonstrated by the plain language of the statute, the unambiguous intent of Congress is to prohibit the expenditure of federal funds on ‘research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed.’” (pp. 10, 12) (emphasis added)
The Court Order states the Federal government is “enjoined from implementing, applying, or taking any action whatsoever pursuant to the National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research, 74 Fed. Reg. 32,170 (July 7, 2009), or otherwise funding research involving human embryonic stem cells as contemplated in the Guidelines.” This is an ongoing case that will involve additional actions but the court has put a stop to NIH funding of embryo-destructive research pending the outcome of Sherley v. Sebelius.
Information Regarding Research Involving Stem Cells
On Friday July 30, 2010, the Food and Drug Administration lifted a hold it had placed on a Geron Corp embryonic stem cell trial for treatment of spinal cord injury. This is the first FDA-approved trial involving embryo-destructive stem cell research in humans. However, there are no published reports indicating whether the trial is yet underway. You may be aware that adult stem cell treatments are already producing results addressing spinal cord injury and over 70 other diseases and disabilities. In addition, adult stem cell research continues to out-perform embryonic stem cell research according to a recent AP article entitled Adult Stem Cell Research Far Ahead of Embryonic (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3D128923763&ft=3D1&f=3D1003). You may also be interested in seeing information about other breakthroughs in ethical adult stem cells here: Stem Cell Research Facts.
Members of Congress may wish to co-sponsor the following bills related to stem cell research:
Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2009 (H.R. 1050)—by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) and Zach Wamp (R-TN) would ban creating cloned embryos by somatic cell nuclear transfer. The Stupak/Wamp bill is a total ban on human cloning. List of current co-sponsors.
Patients First Act of 2009 ( — H.R. 877)—by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill) and Randy Forbes (R-Va) prioritizes stem cell research toward treating and curing patients, by promoting research and human clinical trials using adult stem cells that show the most potential of providing clinical benefit and are ethically obtained. List of current co-sponsors.
Pro-Life leaders oppose the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act (H.R. 4808 by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo) and Mike Castle (R-Del) because it directs federal funds to embryo-destructive research and authorizes policies that are more expansive than current NIH guidelines and are more expansive than any embryo-destructive research bill approved by the Congress so far. Unlike prior bills considered by the Congress, H.R. 4808 provides a basis for research on stem cells taken from cloned embryos and embryos created solely for the purpose of destruction. (Pro-Life leaders also oppose H.R. 873 and H.R. 872 which also permit embryo-destructive research)
News reports indicate that later this week the Obama administration plans to appeal the recent preliminary injunction in the case Sherley v. Sebelius, which has halted government funding of embryo-destructive research. There are also reports that Senator Harkin plans to hold a legislative hearing responding to the decision on Thursday, September 16, 2010.
AP: Obama appeals stem cell ruling; some work to stop
AP: Stem cell ruling to be appealed, some work to stop
ABC News: Scientists Outraged By Block on Stem Cell Research
BBC News: White House to fight US court stem cell ruling
Boston Globe: Stem cell labs, dashed by ruling, may look again to private donors
Business Week: Sector Snap: Stem Cell stocks fall on court ruling
CBS News: Stem Cell Ruling Stops Federal Disease Studies
CNN: Government Will Appeal Stem Cell Funding Ruling
Huffington Post: Embryonic Stem Cell Funding Halted: Conservative Christian Groups Claim Victory
Lifenews.com: Obama Admin Will Appeal Ruling Against Forcing Embryonic Stem Cell Funding
Newsweek: Stem-Cell Research’s Controversial Past
NPR: Obama Administration To Appeal Stem-Cell Ruling
NPR: The Difference Between Embryonic, Adult Stem Cells
NY Times: Justice Dept. to Appeal Stem Cell Research Ruling
NY Times: Stem Cell Biology and Its Complication
NY Times: Stem Cell Ruling Will Be Appealed
NY Times: The Two Plaintiffs at Center of the Ban on Stem Cell Use
Politico: DOJ will appeal stem-cell ruling
Reuters: “Stunned” government to appeal stem-cell ruling
Reuters: Stem cell opponent has challenged authority before
Reuters: UPDATE 1-Obama administration to appeal stem cell injunction
USA Today: NIH scientists ‘stunned’ by judge’s stem cell ruling
USA Today: Our view on medical research: Embryonic stem cell ruling puts the onus on Congress
Washington Post: NIH cuts off stem cell funding after court order
Washington Post: Stem cell judge used to stirring things up Washington Post: All stem cell funding in jeopardy, NIH says
WSJ: U.S. to Freeze New Grants After Stem-Cell Decision
WSJ: What’s Next for Stem Cell Research?