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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.

27 April 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The Obama administration has announced its proposals to fund embryonic stem (ES) cell research but it has indicated that federal funding will be restricted to research on cell lines derived from 'surplus' embryos donated following IVF procedures. Mr Obama reversed former President Bush's restriction on federal funding...
9 March 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
US President Barack Obama has announced plans to lift the ban on the federal funding of embryonic stem (ES) cell research, put in place by his predecessor George W Bush more than eight years ago. Obama is expected to sign an executive order legalising the use of...
12 January 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
As President-Elect Barack Obama's inauguration date approaches, Democrats in the US are considering the best way to overturn the current restrictions on embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Mr Obama has already indicated that his administration will relax the restrictions but he now must decide whether to do...
10 November 2008 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
President-elect Barack Obama's victory in last week's US presidential elections is being celebrated by supporters of embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Senator Obama has been a vocal advocate of removing the current restriction on federal funds for human ES cell research imposed by President Bush in 2001...
29 September 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Both candidates in the race for the US presidency - Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama - have released misleading stem cell policy radio advertisements. Although both campaign ads were technically true, Obama misrepresented McCain's current views in support of the research and McCain misrepresented the opposition of...
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