(CN) – A federal judge on Tuesday refused to lift a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, saying a stay “would flout the will of Congress.”
Last month, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth found that the research violates the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a congressional order banning the use of federal money to destroy embryos.
For 50 years, scientists conducted research using only adult stem cells, found in the human body and in tissues discarded after birth. It wasn’t until 1998 that they began using human embryonic stem cells. The National Institute of Health did not fund such research until 2001, when President George W. Bush allowed the agency to fund embryonic stem cell research, but only for existing stem cells in storage.
President Obama removed that restriction last year.
But Judge Lamberth in Washington, D.C., was skeptical of the Obama administration’s claim that federal money would not be used to pay for the destruction of embryos once the research is complete.
The fact that stem cell research involves “multiple steps does not mean that each step is a separate ‘piece of research’ that may be federally funded, provided the next step does not result in the destruction of an embryo,” he wrote.
Lamberth refused to grant the government’s emergency motion to lift the ban, saying government officials are “incorrect about much of their ‘parade of horribles’ that will supposedly result from this court’s preliminary injunction.”
“In this court’s view, a stay would flout the will of Congress, as this court understands what Congress has enacted in the Dickey-Wicker amendment,” Lamberth wrote in his three-page order.
“Congress remains perfectly free to amend or revise the statute,” he added. “This court is not free to do so.”
Two stem cell scientists, Dr. James Sherley and Dr. Theresa Deisher, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, “embryos” and others sued last year to block the Obama administration’s policy, Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research from taking effect.
The lawsuit was dismissed for lack of standing, but the D.C. Circuit reversed, finding that researchers would face increased competition for federal funding.