A group opposed to abortion and embryonic stem cell research is accusing President Obama of violating the constitutional rights of a frozen embryo and "enslaving" it, like Nazis enslaved Jews during the Holocaust.
The group is urging a federal judge to halt Obama's plans to infuse embryonic stem cell research with federal funds. In a lawsuit filed Thursday, the group said it was taking legal action on behalf of "Mary Scott Doe" -- described as a "U.S. citizen" whose life has been "suspended" since "she" was frozen in liquid nitrogen -- and thousands of other embryos just like "her."
"She is entitled to due process and the equal protection of the laws and to be free from slavery and involuntary servitude, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Thirteenth Amendments," said the lawsuit, filed by Maryland attorney Martin Palmer, who heads the National Association for the Advancement of Preborn Children.
In early March, Obama issued an executive order reversing the Bush administration's limits on embryonic stem cell research, in effect opening the door for an influx of federal dollars toward such research. Embryos have to be destroyed to create stem cells for research, but many scientists believe it could lead to cures or treatments for serious ailments, including Parkinson's Disease and diabetes.
"That potential will not reveal itself on its own," Obama said in announcing his plans. "Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research, from years of lonely trial and error -- much of which never bears fruit -- and from a government willing to support that work."
The lawsuit filed Thursday said Obama is "treating human embryos, and, thus, human beings as property" that "may be donated for use and destruction in federally-funded [research] ... without the consent of and against the will of the embryos themselves."
According to a 2003 study by the Rand Corporation, about 400,000 embryos have been frozen and stored for future use, but the vast majority of them are designated for future attempts at pregnancy. Only about 11,000 have been designated for research.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit said any frozen embryos designated for research, by their inherent state, are "entirely incapable of giving an informed consent to their use," insisting that every embryo has "a will to live and develop into a fully-formed human being." Therefore, the lawsuit said, stem cell research is "a form of slavery or involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment."
The lawsuit compared the use of embryos in stem cell research to the human experiments Jews endured during the Holocaust.
"The utilitarian thinking underlying [President Obama's] proposed government funding of human embryo stem cell research and experimentation is what led to the Nazi experimentation on concentration camp prisoners during World War II," the lawsuit said, noting that after all the Nazi experiments on humans "not a single advance for medical science resulted."
The lawsuit is asking -- actually, "praying" in its words -- for a federal judge in Maryland to declare Obama's executive order "null and void," to rule that "Mary Scott Doe" and other frozen embryos are "persons" entitled to due process under the Constitution, and to order Obama to "cease and desist any and all plans to fund or otherwise facilitate, assist or encourage the undertaking of any human embryo stem cell experimentation."
This is the latest in a series of similar lawsuits filed by Palmer over the past several years.
In 1995, he filed a lawsuit to halt research recommended by the National Institutes of Health under President Bill Clinton. A federal district court and a federal court of appeals in Virginia dismissed the case after determining it had no legal standing, and the U.S. Supreme Court then rebuffed Martin's efforts to have the highest court in the land hear the case.
Ten years later, in 2005, Martin filed a lawsuit in California, arguing that a 2004 law expanding state money for stem cell research violated the constitutional rights of a frozen embryo named "Mary Scott Doe." Its language, including the reference to Nazi experiments, was nearly identical to the lawsuit filed this week against President Obama. That lawsuit was dismissed.