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Friday, August 27, 2010

Stem cell research and "judicial activism"

This is so messed up - a federal judge reinstated the ban on stem cell research even though Congress already passed an exemption to the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Notice the deafening silence from all those hard liners who scream about judicial activism whenever a judge supports a progressive principle. This is from Slate.com:

A Distinction Without Deference
By William Saletan

Judicial activism is OK for embryos but not for gays.

Remember when conservatives were against judicial activism? It seems like just a few weeks ago. In fact, it was a few weeks ago. A federal judge had just struck down California's ban on gay marriage. National Review, among others, called it a "raw exercise of judicial imperiousness" by a judge who "smuggled in his own moral sentiments."

Ah, but that was then. This is now. A different judge has ruled that the federal government can no longer fund embryonic stem-cell research. He bases his ruling on the annual Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which forbids federal funding of "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed."

One problem with this rationale is that the federally funded research doesn't destroy embryos. It uses cells derived from embryos that were previously destroyed with nonfederal money. The other problem is that while re-enacting the Dickey Amendment every year, each house of Congress has twice passed legislation that authorizes the federal government to "conduct and support research that utilizes human embryonic stem cells." Presidents Bush and Obama have explicitly agreed that such research, within limits, should be funded. So it seems a stretch, to put it nicely, that the judge in this case interprets the Dickey Amendment as "unambiguously" prohibiting embryonic stem-cell research.



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