President Obama’s administration has formally challenged a court order which temporarily blocks federal funding of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research in the United States.
Last week US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that all ESC research violated a federal law prohibiting federal tax money from being used for research involving the destruction of human embryos.
But now just days later the Justice Department has appealed to Judge Lamberth to suspend the temporary ban.
There are already over 100 treatments using adult stem cells which do not involve the destruction of human embryos.
After over a decade of embryonic stem cell research, no successful treatments have been developed. The first clinical trial is set to begin this year.
But the Justice Department insisted: “The government is seeking a stay of the court’s injunction to prevent the irreparable human and financial harm that could occur if these life-saving research projects are forced to abruptly shut down”.
White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said: “We’ve said from day one that embryonic stem cell research is a top priority for this administration, and we’re going to do everything possible to prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of this injunction”.
The Federal Government has said that if Judge Lamberth does not lift the temporary ban by September 7, it will then present its request to the Court of Appeals.
Pro-life groups welcomed Judge Lamberth’s decision last week.
Steven Aden of the Alliance Defense Fund, an organisation of pro-life lawyers in the United States, said: “The American people should not be forced to pay for experiments prohibited by federal law that destroy human life. The court is simply enforcing an existing law passed by Congress that prevents Americans from paying another penny for needless research on human embryos”.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that the ruling was “a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration and its attempts to circumvent sound science and federal law.”
And Rod Stoddart, Executive Director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, one of the groups supporting the ban, said: “Frequently people will say why are you opposed to stem cell research and of course our answer is, we’re not”.
“We’re opposed to the destruction of the embryos to get embryo stem cells.”
The controversial nature of embryonic stem cell research led former President George W Bush to impose a ban on the federal funding of research into new stem cell lines in 2001.
President Bush argued that he was defending human life, but this ban was overturned by President Obama in March 2009.