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Why a judge blocked Obama's expansion of stem-cell research

The Monday ruling is a victory for opponents of expanding embryonic stem-cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

US District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, shown in this 2008 file photo, on Monday temporarily blocked Obama administration regulations expanding stem-cell research.

Charles Dharapak/AP/File

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A federal judge in Washington issued a temporary injunction Monday blocking implementation of Obama administration guidelines expanding the range of embryonic stem-cell research.

Chief US District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that there is a strong likelihood that the new guidelines, published in July 2009, violate an existing federal law restricting the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

The action marks a setback for the Obama administration and those scientists who believe that more permissive research options may yield medical breakthroughs in the fight against a range of diseases. At the same time, the action is a victory for some scientists and religious groups opposed to the destruction of human embryos.

“Congress has spoken to the precise question at issue – whether federal funds may be used for research in which an embryo is destroyed,” Judge Lamberth wrote. “The Dickey-Wicker Amendment provides that no federal funds shall be used for ‘research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed.' "

“The language of the statute reflects the unambiguous intent of Congress to enact a broad prohibition of funding research in which a human embryo is destroyed,” he said.

The judge rejected a reading of the law offered by administration lawyers that permitted the expanded research.

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