Federal funding of embryonic stem cells to continue after Supreme Court declines case

The case had challenged an executive order from President Obama permitting the funding.
Wed Jan 9, 2013 - 5:18 pm EST

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 9, 2013, ( – The Obama administration will continue funding research that destroys human embryos, after the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the policy on Monday.

That decision lets stand a decision by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., loosening restrictions on stem cell research that requires the death of a human embryo a few days old.


Two adult stem researchers had sued, claiming an Obama executive order broadened the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines for such research beyond the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. 

Dr. James Sherley, one of two scientists who filed Sherley v. Sebelius, said the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his case “provides a new basis for educating the world that embryos are living human beings, worthy of all the safeguards provided to other human research subjects.”

The petitioners argued that President Obama’s executive order, if allowed to stand, “would eviscerate the vital checks that Congress has imposed on agencies to ensure transparency, accountability, and rationality in administrative decision-making.”

“Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law–especially in burdened fiscal times like these,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. ADF attorneys together with Samuel B. Casey of the Jubilee Campaign’s Law of Life Project and Tom Hungar of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, litigated the case.

The other plaintiff, Theresa Deisher, said, “Without this suit many of these scientists and clinicians might have traveled blindly down the embryonic and aborted fetal stem cell roads.

Pro-life activists have been accused of waging a “war on science” by opposing embryonic stem cell research, which its proponents say holds the cure to a panoply of diseases from diabetes to paralysis. However, such research has largely been abandoned, as less mature stem cells have shown themselves likely to develop into tumors

However, adult stem cells have witnessed a number of scientific breakthroughs. Earlier this month, researchers at the RIKEN Research Centre for Allergy and Immunology in Yokohama, Japan, turned adult stem cells into cancer-fighting T lymphocytes

Adult stem cells have already proven useful for growing a new heart and fighting wrinkles, as well as a variety of other conditions.

“This is sad not only given the loss of vulnerable young human life, but also because it will likely delay the real lifesaving research with adult stem cells,” said David Prentice of the Family Research Center in reaction to the Supreme Court decision to pass on the case.

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Although their legal odyssey is over, the plaintiffs say their lawsuit served a purpose.

“Patients will benefit because we raised the issue and brought awareness to the importance of adult stem cells,” Deisher said. “Adult stem cells continue to be safe, effective and affordable while embryonic and aborted fetal stem cells therapies fail patients by their tumor forming capacity, exorbitant cost and moral harms.”

  adult stem cells, embryonic stem cell research, supreme court