Monday August 30, 2010

Congressmen Seek to Undermine Embryonic Stem Cell Ruling by Changing Law

Senate aide: codifying Obama order “wouldn’t do the trick”

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 30, 2010 ( – Members in both chambers of U.S. Congress are angling to alter federal law in order to undermine a district court judge’s temporary injunction that effectively puts a stop to the onset of taxpayer-funded embryonic stem-cell research.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled last Monday that Obama’s March 2009 Executive Order, which permitted public funds for the research involving the destruction of embryonic human beings, directly conflicted with federal law known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment. The amendment prevents taxpayer monies from funding research in which embryos “are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

The Obama administration plans to appeal the decision, which followed a decision in June declaring that pro-life researchers and a Christian adoption group had standing to contest the new funding guidelines in a court of law.

But others are looking for a more direct route: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee aides cited by the National Journal Monday indicated that lawmakers were gearing up to alter the pro-life law cited by the judge “to get at the heart of the problem.” “Simply codifying President Obama’s Executive Order wouldn’t do the trick,” said one aide.

In the House, Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado is planning to re-introduce legislation to eliminate the ban on taxpayer funding for embryo-destructive research, according to news reports in Colorado. The Democrat had sponsored the same legislation previously, but it was vetoed by President George W. Bush.

“For most members of Congress, it’s not really a political calculation as much as a realization that this research has been pretty halted by this court decision and we need to act quickly to reverse that,” said DeGette, a leading pro-abortion voice in Congress.

While DeGette and other Democrats argue that experimentation on cells derived from destroyed embryos is permitted under the law, Lamberth’s decision on Monday emphasized that attempting to separate the origin of such cells from research later conducted on them was misguided.

“ESC [embryonic stem-cell] research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed,” wrote Lamberth. “The process of deriving ESCs from an embryo results in the destruction of the embryo. Thus, ESC research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo. Despite defendants’ attempt to separate the derivation of ESCs from research on ESCs, the two cannot be separated.”

Richard Doerflinger, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, agreed in a New York Times article last week, saying that attempts to make such a distinction were “implausibly narrow.”

Meanwhile, a Rasmussen Reports survey found that public opinion has shifted against taxpayer funding for embryonic stem-cell research since Obama signed the Executive Order last year.

Fifty-seven percent of U.S. voters say that embryonic stem-cell research should not involve taxpayer funds, while only 33 percent believe the research should receive public monies. The numbers are nearly flipped from when Obama signed the Order permitting public funds for embryo-destructive research in March 2009: 52 percent favored the move, and 38 percent were opposed.

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