There are few issues that get the blood flowing between groups like those of Abortion or embryonic stem cell research (ESC). For decades, Abortion has divided this country unlike almost any other issue; we equal amounts of people protesting their point of views on each side of the debate. As science has progressed and research has been able to find cures for things once thought incurable, stem cells have also become a matter of great debate. Not adult stem cells, but rather embryonic ones.
When George W. Bush was in office, he put the issue to rest while on his watch, signing legislation forbidding the use of ESC for medical research. Opponents railed at the decision, saying that it would set back research on cures for years. So when Barack Obama was elected, the same opponents of Bush's legislation rejoiced because the new President would reverse that decision and research could commence. All was right in their world until Monday when a judge drove a roadblock back in the way.
U.S. district Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted a preliminary injunction on August 23rd which put a stop to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. His reasoning for why might really surprise some people though. Being a judge that was appointed to the bench by then President Ronald Reagan, you can figure that he probably was not an abortion proponent. So his ruling that it destroys embryos was expected, but he cited as his precedent the fact that it "went against the will of Congress".
Bet your thinking, what the heck is he talking about? After all, the Congressional majority is Democrat, thus the pendulum would seemingly fall in favor of the use of the cells for research. However in his judgment he made primary mention of the fact that ESC violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment included in federal spending bills. There is an Amendment that you probably never heard of before this came down. What does the Amendment say?
On CNN.com, the following quote spells it out for us. Judge Lamberth said, "The Dickey-Wicker Amendment unambiguously prohibits the use of federal funds for all research in which a human embryo is destroyed," and "It is not limited to prohibit federal funding of only the 'piece of research' in which an embryo is destroyed. Thus, if ESC [embryonic stem cell] research is research in which an embryo is destroyed, the guidelines, by funding ESC research, violate the Dickey-Wicker Amendment."
It changes the playing field once again in this controversial field. While there are a great many researchers that will tell you that this research with ESC maybe our best hope for finding cures to some of mankind's worst diseases, there will always be that age old question hanging overhead. Is it right to destroy the embryo of a human organism in the hopes of using the remaining cells in research testing. Is that embryo indeed a human life in some form? Everyone has an opinion and who’s to say which side is right.
It is a blow to what has already been a shaky year for President Obama. This was one of the first orders he put pen to paper on, and hailed it as his first step to delivering possible cures for millions through the research it would provide. Now much like it did during the Bush Administration, this research will have to go back on hold. The legal system will now have to take over, and certainly appeals will be filed and this decision is liable to be analyzed to the minutest degree.
The interesting dynamic in all of this is that both sides maybe on the same page in about 75 percent of its arguments. Those who are lauding this decision are also people that think that stem cell research should be used, just not from embryos which in all aspects are rendered dead after the needed cells are removed. Members of Christian groups that filed this suit that went before the judge said as much in their statements. In other words, stem cell research yes, with baby embryos, no.
This will be a decision to keep your eyes on in the coming months. Both sides are entrenched in their views and neither will give up until their final appeals have been heard. It is certainly an ethical dilemma to try and figure out for the legal system. No matter which way the decision ultimately goes, someone is going to be upset and lives will be affected, whether they are the sick and afflicted or the unborn.