In the instance of an injunction on embryonic stem cell research being upheld, it's not evil Republicans sticking it to stem cell research, though I have long contended they never did by simply restricting the human embryonic stem cell kind anyway - that law was signed by Clinton. Instead, it is a court and we have 50 solid years of aggressive judicial good works that has gone well beyond interpreting the Constitution, making it the most powerful branch of government.
Royce C. Lamberth, chief U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, rejected a request by the Obama administration to lift an injunction created as a result of law created by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democrat president yet renewed again by Democrats in Congress and the presidency. The issue was belief that Obama and Congress were trying to have it both ways; keeping restrictions on stem cell research in place since the Bush administration but favoring hESC research over other types, such as induced pluripotent and adult stem cell research, by attempting to give hESC a freer pass in 2009. That is unfair, said the judge, but the justification was that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment bars federal money from being used for any research involving the destruction of human embryos. Not all money, and such research is not illegal, just federal money for destruction of embryos.
Here is how it read in March, 2009, when Obama tried to modify restrictions with an executive order; taxpayer money is not allowed for "(1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) 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 CFR 46.208(a)(2) and Section 498(b) of the Public Health Service Act".
If that is unclear, Dickey-Wicker Amendment was 1996 law banning federal funding of research that could harm a human embryo and the Clinton Administration interpreted the Dickey-Wicker Amendment to mean that federal funds could not be used to derive stem cells from the embryo, but could be used for research on the cells after they had been derived. On August 9, 2001, President Bush announced that federal funding would be available only for research on human embryonic stem cell lines already in existence as of that date.
Even the verbage in March, 2009 above is pretty clear and the Obama changing of restrictions were a cultural placebo for his science constituency, though perhaps Fox News is the only media group that noticed - instead of 21 lines, researchers could now use a few hundred. It was not a solution. With Dickey-Wicker still intact, Obama and his advisors had to know it still prevented taxpayer-funded researchers from creating their own stem cell lines but it is often the case with governments that they put themselves in a position where a lawsuit can strike them down, taking the decision out of their hands. Both sides of cultural debates are satisfied that way.
The semantics of that issue aside (as in whether or not the whole thing is valid - at the time of the Clinton and Bush decisions, the technology was very new, derived stem cells having been possible only since 1998) the issue now is how broad a court can be. The NIH, a government organization, immediately halted funding, as they should have.
The usual science blogging hysterics are having a field day to generate pageviews (and likely finding a way to blame Bush, though this ruling based on an Obama miscalculation impedes research in a way even Bush restrictions never did) but the short-term effect is slight. NIH Director Francis Collins says 200 or so projects already funded are fine. 60 projects under review (so may not get funding anyway) are being put aside temporarily while only 22 investigators scheduled to get money this month may not get it.
The long-term effect is more substantial. While the judge is right that the Obama provisions clearly violate Dickey-Wicker, his injunction is overreaching - and that's the downside to judicial activism. Republican or Democrat, letting one branch have ultimate authority over all others is a negative for all of us.
- Appeals Court Lifts Restrictions On Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Funding
- Adult Stem Cells Changed Into Pluripotent Stem Cells By Nuclear Transfer
- Elf1 Cell Line May Help Embryonic Stem Cell Research
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Reset To Pristine State
- Anti-Science Republicans Versus Anti-Science Democrats: The Comparison