If it’s at all possible to boil a high-profile lawsuit down to “This would cut in on our action,” you should probably just ignore the plaintiff. This is the case in Sherley v. Sebelius, in which two researchers, James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, are suing the federal government over grants for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research:
They argued that they were at risk of being squeezed out of federal grants for their own work with adult stem cells, which does not involve the destruction of embryos.
You can’t see me right now, but I’m sarcastically rubbing the tips of my thumb and index finger together. But let’s explore their “It’s not about us” argument anyway:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review a challenge to federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research brought by two researchers who said the U.S. National Institutes of Health rules on such studies violate federal law. . . . U.S. law prohibits the NIH from funding the creation of human embryos for research or research in which human embryos are destroyed, but leaves room for debate over whether that includes work with [hESC].
This case is from 2009; an executive order from that year opened up hESC research on “embryos that come from fertility clinics and were going to be thrown away otherwise.” A district court ruling later blocked that order, followed by a ruling from an appellate court that allowed the funding to resume. The U.S. Supreme Court, like the rest of us, doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.
Some of you might wonder how it’s possible to extract stem cells from an embryo without destroying it or, in other cases, creating a new one. If you’re willing to read through a whole lot of biological jargon, you can read up on two methods, this one and this one, that researchers have discovered that skip either step. Assuming a future stem cell research project uses either method or something similar, nothing in U.S. law would prevent them from federal funding.
After that’s out of the way, the loudest arguments you’ll hear against using federal funds for hESC research are moral. The embryos that need not be destroyed do come from fertility clinics, after all, which means researchers are benefiting from abortion in many cases. That’s not a good enough reason to cut off opportunities for medical research with enormous potential to save and improve the lives of humans that have already been born. Are you a pro-lifer who disagrees? Don’t waste your time by telling me so.
As far as Sherley goes, there’s nothing more for the Supreme Court to do, and they responded accordingly by refusing to review the challenge to the appeal ruling. My condolences to Sherley and Deisher for potentially missing out on that sweet, sweet federal grant money. P.S. lol