Thursday, September 30, 2010

As long as I'm on a science kick

Credit where it's due:
The Obama administration pleaded with an appeals court Monday to overturn a judge's order halting federal funding of stem cell research, arguing the ban would irreparably harm scientific progress toward potentially lifesaving medical treatment.
That ban was issued by District Court Judge Royce Lamberth on the grounds that the administration's research funding guidelines likely violate a federal law against the government funding any program that involved the destruction of human embryos. Lamberth is overseeing a suit against the federal stem cell research program by an anti-abortion group.

That law, passed in 1996 to please abortion opponents, was stretched to a ridiculous extreme by Lamberth. Due to the law, batches, or lines, of stem cells have been harvested, often from aborted embryos, using private money. Those lines can reproduce indefinitely. The new guidelines permitted federal funds to be used in research with existing lines, thus expanding the number of privately-created lines that federally-funded researchers could use from the 21 approved by Shrub up to 75.

Lamberth, however, bizarrely ruled that because those lines had at some point in the past involved the "destruction of an embryo" by someone else, the new rules were using federal money in research that now "involved" destroying embryos and were thus illegal.

The administration strongly defended the rules and urged the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals to suspend the order while the case proceeded, arguing that interrupting on-going research would irreparably harm scientific progress toward the kinds of cures and treatments that stem cells may make available.

In an unusually quick decision, the very next day the Appeals Court granted the government's motion for a stay of Lamberth's order, allowing federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to continue. And while it's unwise to put too much meaning on such things, the temptation still exists to think that the Appeals Court didn't think too much of Lamberth's order, like it really didn't take a lot of thought to say of the order, "Um, no."
"President Obama made expansion of stem cell research and the pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures a top priority when he took office," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement after the ruling. "We're heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved."

Ron Stoddart with Nightlight Christian Adoptions, which filed the suit and helps with the adoption of human embryos that are being stored in fertilization clinics, said the case promises to be a long and involved process. "I think that eventually Congress has to step up and deal with it," he said.
Considering that Congress twice passed legislation approving federally-funded embryonic stem cell research only to have it vetoed each time by George Bush, I don't think getting Congress involved is actually what Stoddart is hoping for.

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