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Bid to block new US stem cell guidelines rejected by judge

9 November 2009
Appeared in BioNews 533

A District Court Judge in the US has dismissed a lawsuit brought by an embryo adoption agency, Nightlight Christian Adoptions ('Nightlight'), and the Christian Medical Association ('CMA'). The lawsuit sought to prevent the implementation of the Obama Administration's new National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines on federal funding for embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research.

The NIH released the guidelines in April, following an order from President Obama to ease the restrictive federal funding regime implemented by his predecessor, President George W Bush. In brief, federal funding will be limited to research on embryos 'left over' from IVF treatment, with the donor's consent.

Nightlight and the CMA sued on their own behalf, and also on behalf of all embryos, claiming that the implementing these guidelines would be detrimental to the number of embryos available for adoption. In his ruling, Judge Royce Lambeth pointed out that embryos, as unborn beings, possess no right to life protection under the US Constitution's 14th Amendment. 'Embryos,' he stated, 'lack standing because they are not persons under the law'. Furthermore, the Judge failed to find the litigants' argument persuasive, saying that donors have a choice as to whether they donate their spare embryos to an adoption agency or research and that the guidelines do not necessarily compel a decreased number of embryos available for adoption. 'The Court finds that Nightlight lacks standing because its alleged injury is 'mere 'unadorned speculation' as to the existence of a relationship between the [guidelines] and the third-party conduct,' he said, adding: 'Indeed, if Nightlight suffers any injury at all, it will be because of the choices of third parties not before this court, and not because of the guidelines.'

Executive Director of Nightlight, Rod Stoddard, expressed disappointment in the judicial decision and has indicated that Nightlight is considering filing an appeal.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
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