A federal judge has seen through President Barack Obama's attempt to use word games to circumvent a law intended to prevent destruction of human embryos. Though the judge's decision does not halt government funding of research in which embryos are destroyed, it is a good first step. We hope opponents of the practice pursue a complete ban in court.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, in Washington, D.C., recently issued a ruling that blocks, at least temporarily, federal funding in which human embryos are destroyed in order to conduct stem cell research. Such research holds promise in fighting a variety of diseases.
But opponents say progress is not worth the cost of destroying human embryos that could develop into babies.
A 1996 federal law banned use of federal funds for any research involving destruction of human embryos. But in 1999, a Department of Health and Human Services lawyer said funding could be provided for stem cell research - because the money would not be used directly to destroy embryos.
In 2001, then President George Bush limited federal funding support to research using existing stem cells. In other words, Bush recognized that because embryonic stem cells can be obtained only by destroying embryos, the HHS lawyer's argument was flawed. Federal funding, even of supposedly isolated stem cell research, would promote destruction of embyros.
Obama promised to lift the Bush-era restriction, and did. But Lamberth's common-sense ruling recognized the White House stance - like that of the HHS lawyer in 1999 - was merely use of sematics to get around the law banning destruction of human embryos.
Again, Lamberth's ruling obviously is correct. If Obama wants to pursue his liberal policy, he should be forced to ask Congress to debate - in public - whether to overturn the 1996 law.