The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the Obama administration’s funding for embryonic stem cell research without comment on Jan. 7, allowing a circuit court’s ruling to stand upholding the research policy. Two adult stem cell researchers challenged the policy, arguing that it violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment that forbids federal funding for projects that destroy embryos. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys who argued on behalf of the two researchers said the success of adult stem cell research has made federally funded research on embryonic stem cells “irrelevant.”
President George W. Bush authorized federal research on embryonic stem cells, but only for cell lines where embryos had already been destroyed. President Obama expanded that authorization in 2009, allowing federal research on embryonic stem cells as long as the embryos were already going to be discarded and the parents had consented to the destruction. Under the guidelines federal researchers are not supposed to be a part of the destruction of embryos.
The Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued that the guidelines gave incentive to destroy embryos, thus violating Dickey-Wicker. They also argued that the line between those destroying the embryos and the federal researchers using the destroyed embryos was fuzzy. But the D.C. Circuit Court and the Supreme Court rejected those arguments.
Embryonic stem cells so far have produced few breakthroughs. In 2011, Geron Corp., one of the only companies doing experimental therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells, abruptly ended its program because of “capital scarcity and uncertain economic conditions.”