In a surprising decision, Federal Judge Roy C. Lambeth ruled that the Obama administration’s rules for funding stem cell research violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which prevents the federal government from funding any “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” The Obama administration has been providing funding for life-saving research that uses embryonic stem cells which have already been created without government funding.
The impact of the ruling is unclear and the Obama administration is expected to appeal. However, the result could be even more restrictive than the rules that governed stem cell research under President George W. Bush. Bush’s rules allowed the government to fund research as long as the cells came from one of the 21 existing stem cell lines. While embryonic stem cells and choice may seem like completely separate issues, they overlap. Personhood USA is pushing measures in 31 states, including Maryland, that would declare personhood at conception, effectively banning abortion and imperiling stem cell research. Like abortion, stem cell research also comes under attack in the Maryland Legislature each year.
This ruling is a tremendous set-back for the research community. Stem cell research holds the promise of helping millions of Americans suffering from diseases like cancer, diabetes, Parkinsons, ALS, spinal cord injuries, and Alzheimers. Let’s hope that people can see beyond the politics of the issue and focus on saving and improving people’s lives.