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Stem-Cell Research Ban Reversed

Back and forth it goes: The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has put on hold a ban on embryonic stem-cell research while the Justice Department reviews it. The Justice Department said that District Judge Royce Lamberth’s August 23 decision to put funding on hold would cause irreparable harm to researchers, taxpayers, and scientific progress. In its decision, the court wrote, “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.” For his part, Lamberth cited a 1996 amendment that forbade federal funding for research that destroys a human embryo, saying, “A stay would flout the will of Congress.” In March 2009, Obama reversed an executive order from George W. Bush to grant research on cells from embryos that would otherwise be disposed of after in vitro fertilization procedures. Under the Bush order, the amendment was interpreted to allow research on lines of stem cells that already had been made using human embryos. Bush's executive order in 2001 curbed federal funds for such research to around 20 existing lines of embryonic cells and banned federal funds on lines created after that time. Opponents of stem-cell research have until September 14 to file a response.