After court-imposed halt, Specter seeks to make stem-cell funding permanent

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) on Monday introduced legislation to dodge a federal judge’s injunction against the Obama’s administration’s expansion of stem-cell research.

Specter, a two-time cancer survivor, introduced a bill to establish permanent federal funding for research using embryonic cells, warning that even a temporary halt to such research could jeopardize critical medical progress.

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"This is the time to seize the scientific opportunities that lie before us and to ensure that all avenues of research toward cures — including stem-cell research — remain open for investigation," Specter said.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth last month issued an injunction against an executive order by Obama that lifted restrictions imposed on the research by the Bush administration. Lamberth ruled that federal funds could not be used for research involving embryonic cells.

A federal appeals court in New York overturned the ban temporarily last week, however, allowing Congress to step in and establish rules surrounding the research.

Specter said the National Institutes of Health has already made "revolutionary advances" with the help of a $10 billion allocation included in the February 2009 stimulus bill — for which Specter was a key Republican vote.

Specter left the GOP last year and lost his Democratic primary election earlier this year to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).

The NIH allocation helped researchers make progress fighting cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease, among other illnesses, Specter said.

Legislation is necessary to eliminate "uncertainty" created by Lamberth’s ruling, he said.

"The uncertainty created by the ruling slows the progress of science," Specter said. "Young scientists rightly void fields of science for which funding may come and go due to political whim rather than scientific and medical merit. A temporary end to the current restrictions is an incomplete and ultimately self-defeating solution."