January 8, 2013 — The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a case challenging the Obama administration's policy to expand federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells, AP/Modern Healthcare reports (AP/Modern Healthcare, 1/7).
In 2009, President Obama enacted a policy in which NIH could conduct "scientifically worthy human stem cell research to the extent permitted by law," and subsequent NIH guidelines stipulated that researchers could use stem cell lines derived from donated frozen embryos that are no longer needed for fertility treatments (Savage, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 1/7).
James Sherley -- a biological engineer at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute -- and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology filed a lawsuit, Sherley v. Sebelius, against the expanded funding (Baynes, Reuters, 1/7). A federal judge in 2010 -- citing a congressional ban against research in which "human embryos are destroyed" -- barred the expanded funding, but an appeals court later overturned that decision ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 1/7).
In asking the high court to consider their appeal, the researchers said that NIH had a duty to respond to over 30,000 public comments on the agency's proposed stem cell policy before adopting final regulations (Reuters, 1/7).
In a one-line order, the high court justices refused to review the appeals court's decision (Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 1/7). The ruling was issued without comment or dissent ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 1/7).
In a statement, the Association of American Medical Colleges said the court's decision is "good news for patients," adding, "Research using [human embryonic stem cells] conducted under rigorous ethical standards continues to offer great promise in the search for cures and treatments for a variety of intractable diseases."
Meanwhile, abortion-rights opponents criticized the ruling. Steven Aden -- senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped bring the case -- said, "Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments and violate federal law -- especially in burdened fiscal times like these" (Viebeck, "Healthwatch,"The Hill, 1/7).
Justices Reject Antiabortion Group's Case
In related news, the Supreme Court also rejected without comment a request by an antiabortion-rights group to hear its case seeking an exemption from campaign finance disclosure regulations, CNN reports.
The Real Truth About Abortion -- formerly known as the Real Truth About Obama -- initiated legal proceedings in 2008 after the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice resisted its efforts to fund advertisements about President Obama's positions during his first presidential campaign.
Real Truth wanted to appeal its designation as a political action committee. PACs are groups that support or oppose a particular candidate, issue or measure and are required by federal law to disclose information about their financial donors.
The group argued that its "issue advocacy" was protected by free speech and not subject to federal regulation because it did not "expressly advocate the election or defeat" of a particular candidate or contribute to one (Mears, CNN, 1/7). The group also alleged that FEC rules defining PACs and their activity are unconstitutionally vague and broad, according to the AP/Huffington Post (AP/Huffington Post, 1/7).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
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Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
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