The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Tuesday overturned a federal court’s ban on taxpayer funding for human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).
In August U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the funding of the research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) should be suspended while its legality was challenged. A coalition of opponents says the funding violates federal law barring funding for research which destroys human embryos.
Government lawyers said dozens of research projects would be ruined if the ban continued, the BBC reports.
Judge Lamberth’s ruling had already been temporarily suspended but Tuesday’s decision overrules it until a final decision is reached.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs praised the three-judge panel’s ruling, saying the "pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures” was a top priority of President Obama. Gibbs said the White House was “heartened” that the NIH and their grantees can “continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved.”
Sam Casey, a lawyer for the opposing coalition, said the ruling was disappointing. He said funding opponents were confident in their case and "expect the court will ultimately end taxpayer funding of unlawful, unnecessary and unethical experiments on living human embryos," the BBC says.
Human ESCR investigates the therapeutic possibilities of using embryonic stem cells to treat human diseases. It relies upon stem cells harvested by destroying human embryos.
In an interview last month, the Westchester Institute’s Fr. Thomas Berg addressed the ethical objections to ESCR funding.
The practice is “complicity in the destruction of individual, embryonic human persons,” he said.
“You were once an embryo. That’s a simple matter of scientific and biological facts.”
In his view, Judge Lamberth’s decision correctly interpreted the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bars the funding of embryo-destroying research.
However, the case has energized ESCR advocates. In Fr. Berg’s view, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment is “certainly more in danger now than it ever has been.”
After the ruling Rep. Diana Degette (D-Colo.), an advocate of ESCR funding, announced she would reintroduce a bill to lift funding restrictions. One of the bill’s two Republican co-sponsors, Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), recently lost his state’s Senate primary election to Christine O’Donnell.
A Rasmussen Poll report released in August found that 57 percent of likely voters oppose federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, while only 33 percent support it.