A federal district court judge in Washington, DC, ruled yesterday that federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research violates the Dickey Amendment, passed in 1995, that forbids the use of federal funds to create of human embryos for research purposes or for research in which human embryos are destroyed. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations had thought that they had artfully gotten around this restriction by regulatory interpretations. The National Institutes of Health concluded that while the government could not pay for the creation and derivation of embryonic stem cells federally funded researchers could use such cells once they had been derived.
The case had been brought before the court by the conservative Christian Alliance Defense Fund and Nightlight Christian Adoptions which wants to put embryos left over from fertility treatments up for "adoption." Both argue that deriving human embryonic stem cells kills pre-born people.
Given that about 60 percent of Americans support stem cell research using embryos left over from fertility treatments, this ruling will surely spark the stem cell wars anew. While researchers eager to get federal funding will be disappointed and the confusion over the ruling will likely further delay research, the good news is that there is a lot private and state funding available for stem cell research.
Stay tuned as this battle front in the culture war heats up again.