Embryonic stem cell research offers some people a chance at life and while others believe that such work takes a life. Many are unhappy with research that uses embryos and destroys them in the process as they consider each embryo to be a living person. Others are furious with the first group and want to take away their rising influence and control over law and government policy.
Former President Bush approved the 1996 Dickey/Wicker amendment that prohibited Federal funding for embryonic research. President Obama restored the funding under very strict conditions that prohibit working with whole embryos:
According to MSN, the government does not make embryos or use whole embryos. Embryos that are normally scheduled to be thrown out are taken apart by private labs and with private money. The Federal funds can then be used to research the components of the embryos. In other words, the taxpayers would not "kill" any embryos that are left over from fertility procedures and are destined to be destroyed.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has information about the use of various types of stem cells. Stem cells offer the promise of providing renewable cells that, like organs and tissue, could be transplanted to help with many diseases and conditions. Examples are: Parkinson's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury, burns, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
A group called Alliance Defending Freedom (Formerly Alliance Defense Fund) refused to pay attention to the strict rules that President Obama set up and sued to have the funding stopped. In 2010, the group found a friendly court in US court justice Royce Lambeth. He ruled in their favor based on the "likely" test. That court said that the order "likely" violated the Dickey/Wicker amendment.
In 2011, a Federal appeals court overturned Lambeth's "likely" ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the Federal appeals court ruling. Chief Judge David B. Sentelle was on the three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel with Judge Janice Rogers Brown, and Karen LeCraft Henderson. He said,
"Dickey-Wicker permits federal funding of research projects that utilize already-derived" embryonic stem cells because no "human embryo or embryos are destroyed" in such projects. "Therefore, unless they have established some `extraordinary circumstance,' the law of the case is established and we will not revisit the issue."
The "grassroots" Alliance Defending Freedom gave the following statement:
"Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law. That law’s clear intent has been utterly ignored. Congress designed that law so that Americans don’t pay any more precious taxpayer dollars for needless research made irrelevant by adult stem cell and other research. In the current economic climate, it makes even less sense for the Obama administration to use taxpayer money for this illegal and unethical purpose.”
Right Wing Watch has a profile of Alliance Defending Freedom, AKA Alliance Defense Fund.
Increasingly, public policy is becoming more threatened by well-funded religious groups who will continue to impose dogmatic and extremist religious policy on the law and to dictate the role of the government. The stem cell court case is just one of many fronts in the religious right's war against constitutional protections of freedom of religion.