Colorado U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a leading advocate for women’s health and head of the Pro-Choice Congressional Caucus, celebrated on Friday a ruling lifting the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
“With today’s ruling the Appeals Court has offered a measure of stability and continuity to the scores of researchers across America who have been whiplashed by this court case,” she said in a release. “Not only did the court recognize the life-saving potential of this research, but in determining that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their argument, the [judges] upheld over a decade’s worth of work and literature establishing the acceptability of federal funding for ethical embryonic stem cell research.”
Last August Judge Royce Lamberth enjoined the federal government from funding embryonic stem cell research based on a complaint filed in 2009 by Drs. James Sherley and Theresa Deisher against Secretary of the Department of Health Kathleen Sebelius. The doctors acted after Pres. Obama lifted restrictions on research funding put in place by Pres. George W. Bush.
An appeals court in Washington, DC, vacated that injunction today, freeing the National Institutes of Health to finance stem cell research projects and kicking the case, Sherley v. Sebelius, back to Judge Lamberth’s court. Any decision Lamberth makes on the merits of the case is likely to set in motion an appeals process that will end up decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although anti-abortion groups oppose embryonic stem cell research because they believe it tampers menacingly with the unborn, embryonic stem cells now are reproduced in labs from cells derived years ago from originals. Humane research using reproduced embryonic cells is what DeGette and others refer to as “ethical embryonic stem cell research.”
The unique properties of stem cells make them extremely valuable for biological scientists looking in part for ways to restart human cell growth. Stem cells can divide into diverse specialized cells and can develop into nearly any of the 200 types of human cell. Scientists have used them, for example, to try to grow spinal nerve cells in patients suffering paralysis.
The 2 to 1 ruling today lifting the injunction supplies much background to the case and is available as a pdf here.
“While I am extremely pleased with this decision, I will continue my efforts to pass legislation codifying federal funding for this vital research,” DeGette said in the release.
“Embryonic stem cells hold too much promise for too many Americans for us to leave their funding up to the political gamesmanship of Washington. We have already lost valuable time that we could have spent helping find treatments and cures of millions of Americans, and it is time to act swiftly to ensure uninterrupted federal support.”