A US appeals court has overturned a temporary ban on the use of taxpayers’ money to fund contentious research into embryonic stem cells.
The Obama administration caused a storm of controversy last year by expanding the use of federal funds for research into new lines of embryonic stem cells.
But last month District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the research violated federal law, and imposed a temporary ban on the use of federal money for the research.
The Justice Department challenged the decision, and yesterday a three-judge panel lifted the ban saying that the court needed more time to consider the case.
The court said: “The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion”.
The decision has been met with dismay by opponents.
Stephen H. Aden, a lawyer at the Alliance Defense Fund, said: “The American people should not be forced to pay for even one more day of experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments and violate an existing federal law”.
He added: “The district court’s decision simply enforced that law, which prevents Americans from paying another penny for needless research on human embryos made irrelevant by adult stem cell and other research.”
The Justice Department and the National Institute of Health released a statement, saying: “We are pleased with the Court’s interim ruling, which will allow this important, life-saving research to continue while we present further arguments to the Court in the weeks to come.”
Opponents of the funding have until 14 September to file a response.
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.
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.