NY TIMES, HEALTH, MONEY AND POLICY
U.S. Judge Rules Against Obama’s Stem Cell Policy
Published: August 23, 2010
WASHINGTON — A federal district judge on Monday blocked
executive order that expanded embryonic
research, saying it violated a ban on federal
money being used to destroy embryos.
came as a shock to scientists at the
National Institutes of Health
and at universities
across the country, which had viewed the Obama administration’s new policy and the grants
provided under it as settled law. Scientists scrambled Monday evening to assess the ruling’s
immediate impact on their work.
“I have had to tell everyone in my lab that when they feed their cells tomorrow morning, they
better use media that has not been funded by the federal government,” said Dr. George Q. Daley,
director of the stem cell transplantation program at Children’s Hospital Boston, referring to food
given to cells. “This ruling means an immediate disruption of dozens of labs doing this work
since the Obama administration made its order.”
In his ruling, Chief Judge
Royce C. Lamberth
of Federal District Court for the District of
Columbia wrote that his temporary injunction returned federal policy to the “status quo,” but few
officials, scientists or lawyers in the case were sure Monday night what that meant.
Dr. Daley was among those who said they believed that it meant that work financed under the
new rules had to stop immediately; others said it meant that the health institutes had to use Bush
administration rules for future grants.
Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which sued to stop the Obama
administration rules, said the judge’s ruling “means that for now the N.I.H. cannot issue funding
grants to embryonic stem cell research projects without any further order from the court.”
Officials at the health institutes said that lawyers at the Department of Justice would interpret the
ruling for them. Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, wrote in an e-mail,
“We’re reviewing the decision.”
The judge ruled that the Obama administration’s policy was illegal because the administration’s
distinction between work that leads to the destruction of embryos — which cannot be financed
by the federal government under the current policy — and the financing of work using stem cells
created through embryonic destruction was meaningless. In his ruling, he referred to embryonic
stem cell research as E.S.C.
“If one step or ‘piece of research’ of an E.S.C. research project results in the destruction of an
embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding,” wrote Judge Lamberth,
who was appointed to the federal bench in 1987 by President
In other words, the neat lines that the government had drawn between the process of embryonic