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“The court is simply enforcing an existing law passed by Congress that prevents Americans from paying another penny for needless research on human embryos,” he said.

Attorneys for the Justice Department had argued in the case that the destruction of an embryo and research on the destroyed embryo should be viewed as separate legal acts.

The NIH guidelines “recognize the distinction … between the derivation of stem cells from an embryo that results in the embryo’s destruction, for which federal funding is prohibited, and research involving [stem cells] that does not involve an embryo nor result in an embryo’s destruction, for which federal funding is permitted,” according to the defense brief.

Judge Lamberth, named to the bench in 1987 by President Reagan, rejected that argument, saying if one step or a piece of research of an embryonic stem cell research project results in the destruction of an embryo, “the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.”

The decision leaves the Obama administration with a choice: whether to continue to fight the lawsuit, despite the strong likelihood of success, or take advantage of the strong Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, likely to be thinned in the upcoming midterm elections, to repeal the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.

First introduced in 1995 and signed by President Clinton, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment has been included every year since then in the appropriations bills funding the Health and Human Services Department. It was named for its two Republican House sponsors, Reps. Jay Dickey of Arkansas, who is no longer in Congress, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who now serves in the Senate.