File this one under O for OMG are you kidding me? How fortunate for us right wing wackos who oppose using human beings for research, how unfortunate for President Barry and his troupe of (badly) performing clowns
The provision was buried in the 465-page omnibus appropriations bill that Obama signed Wednesday. Known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment, it has been included in the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services every fiscal year since 1996.
The amendment says, in part: "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for—(1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."
Found in Section 509 of Title V of the omnibus bill (at page 280 of the 465-page document), the federal funding ban not only prohibits the government from providing tax dollars to support research that kills or risks injury to a human embryo, it also mandates that the government use an all-inclusive definition of “human embryo” that encompasses any nascent human life from the moment that life comes into being, even if created in a laboratory through cloning, in vitro fertilization or any other means.
“For the purposes of this section,” says the law, “the term ‘human embryo or embryos’ includes any organism … that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells.” (The entire verbatim text of Section 509 of the omnibus spending law is reprinted at the bottom of this article.)
At a widely publicized White House ceremony on Monday, President Obama signed his own executive order lifting an executive order that President Bush had signed in 2001. While allowing federal funding of research involving embryonic stem cell lines that had already been created from embryos that had already been destroyed, Bush's 2001 order denied federal funding to research that required the killing of any additional embryos.
“For the past 8 years, the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to fund and conduct human embryonic stem cell research has been limited by Presidential actions,” said the order that President Obama signed Monday. “The purpose of this order is to remove these limitations on scientific inquiry, to expand NIH support for the exploration of human stem cell research, and in so doing to enhance the contribution of America's scientists to important new discoveries and new therapies for the benefit of humankind.”
The order went on to say: “The Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), through the Director of NIH, may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.”
Thanks to the Dickey-Wicker language in Section 509 of the omnibus bill, the "extent permitted by law" will continue to forbid federal funding of research that even puts embryos at risk.
Close observers on both sides of the embryonic stem cell issue were well aware of the Dickey-Wicker amendment, and understood that it would pose a legal obstacle to federal funding of embryo-killing research even if President Obama issued an executive order reversing President Bush's administrative policy denying federal funding to that research.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D.-Colo.) sponsored the House version of a bill--vetoed by President Bush--that would have legalized federal funding of stem cell research that destroys so-called “spare” human embryos taken from in vitro fertilization clinics. On Monday, she told The New York Times she had already approached what she called “several pro-life Democrats” about the possibility of repealing Dickey-Wicker.
“Dickey-Wicker is 13 years old now, and I think we need to review these policies,'' The Times quoted DeGette as saying. “I’ve already talked to several pro-life Democrats about Dickey-Wicker, and they seemed open to the concept of reversing the policy if we could show that it was necessary to foster this research.”
Rep. Mike Castle (R.-Del.), who co-sponsored Rep. DeGette’s bill, similarly stated this week that Dickey-Wicker should be revisited.
"Certainly, the Dickey-Wicker amendment . . . is something we need to look at," Castle told Congressional Quarterly Today on Monday. "That was passed in 1996, before we realized the full potential of embryonic stem cell research. Some researchers are telling us now that that needs to be reversed."
Douglas Johnson, spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee, said in a press release Monday that President Obama’s executive order lifting the ban on federal funding for embryo-destroying stem cell research “set the stage” for an effort to repeal Dickey-Wicker.
“This sets the stage for an attack on the Dickey-Wicker law, which since 1995 has been a provision of the annual appropriations bills for federal health programs,” said Johnson. “Any member of Congress who votes for legislation to repeal this law is voting to allow federal funding of human embryo farms, created through the use of human cloning.”
In the remarks he made Monday when announcing the executive order, President Obama said he wanted to close the door to “the use” of cloning for human reproduction but not for other purposes.
“And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society, or any society,” said Obama.
A bill sponsored in the last Congress by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R- Utah) would specifically permit federal funding of research using human embryos that are created by cloning and kept alive for no more than 14 days so that their stem cells can be extracted. Federal funding of this type of research is prohibited by Dickey-Wicker.
Researchers are interested in cloning human embryos for prospective stem cell therapies because it might help overcome the problem posed by a patient's immune system, which rejects stem cells derived from another person but might accept stem cells if they are taken from an embryo cloned from the patient himself.
On Tuesday morning, The New York Times carried an editorial calling on Congress to repeal Dickey-Wicker.
“Other important embryonic research is still being hobbled by the so-called Dickey-Wicker amendment,” The Times editorialized. “The amendment, which is regularly attached to appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services, prohibits the use of federal funds to support scientific work that involves the destruction of human embryos (as happens when stem cells are extracted) or the creation of embryos for research purposes.”
“Congress should follow Mr. Obama's lead and lift this prohibition so such important work can benefit from an infusion of federal dollars,” The Times said.
The next day, President Obama signed H.R. 1105, the “Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009,” which includes the Dickey-Wicker language. Unless Congress passes and President Obama signs new legislation to repeal Dickey-Wicker, it will now be the law of the land at least through September 30, when this fiscal year ends.
The text of Section 509 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, reads as follows:
SEC. 509. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for—(1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under 45 CFR 46.204(b) and section 498(b) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 289g(b)). (b) For purposes of this section, the term ‘‘human embryo or embryos’’ includes any organism, not protected as a human subject under 45 CFR 46 as of the date of the enactment of this Act, that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells.
Michael W. Chapman contributed to this report.