Update, 4:20p: How long will this injunction hold? Answer from DC source:

The Court Order states the Federal government is “enjoined from implementing, applying, or taking any action whatsoever pursuant to the National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research, 74 Fed. Reg. 32,170 (July 7, 2009), or otherwise funding research involving human embryonic stem cells as contemplated in the Guidelines.”

This is an ongoing case that will involve additional actions but the court has put a stop to NIH funding of embryo-destructive research pending the outcome of Sherley v. Sebelius, which is the title of the lawsuit that prompted the injunction.

10:53a: I wrote June 28 that this was a case to watch, and it was.

The following is great news but not the final word. Look for the Democrat-controlled Congress to try to kill the stopgap Dickey-Wicker Amendment when it comes time for renewal at the end of Fiscal Year 2010.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I found The Hindu provided the best unspun analysis of yesterday’s pro-life, pro-rule of law court decision:

President Barack Obama’s support for embryonic stem cell research suffered a serious setback this week when a federal judge ruled that a Presidential order permitting such research clashed with a Congressional ban on the use of government money for such purposes.

In a judgement that could result in the government-run National Institutes of Health being barred from issuing funding grants for ESC research, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth [pictured above] of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia said that he had granted a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs in the case….

In doing so, Judge Lamberth argued that the will of Congress, as expressed in the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, was to prohibit federal funding of research in which human embryos were destroyed.

Accordingly, the Judge said, it was in the public interest to stop the government from implementing its current policy on ESC. [This policy states] NIH “may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem research, to the extent permitted by law”.

The latest ruling however held as invalid the distinction that the government sought to make between the process of embryonic destruction and the results of that destruction. In particular, Judge Lamberth said, “Despite defendants’ attempt to separate the derivation of ESCs from research on the ESCs, the 2 cannot be separated… Simply because ESC research involves multiple steps does not mean that each step is a separate ‘piece of research’ that may be federally funded, provided the step does not result in the destruction of an embryo.”

He added that if even a single step or “piece of research” of an ESC research project resulted in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project ought to be precluded from receiving federal funding under D-W.

Injunction preserves ‘status quo’

In terms of its immediate impact, Judge Lamberth however said that the injunction would not seriously harm ESC researchers because the injunction would simply preserve the status quo and would not interfere with their ability to obtain private funding for research. Further, he downplayed the impact that the stoppage of such research could have on individuals suffering from illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, saying that the possibility of the research leading to their treatment was “speculative”.