A Maryland lawyer has filed a lawsuit representing Mary Scott Doe, an unborn embryo, against Robert Klein, chairman of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the state-run $3 billion stem cell research funding agency.
Martin Palmer, a trial lawyer in Hagerstown, Maryland, and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Preborn Children (NAAPC, get it? The website goes to a placeholder as of Friday afternoon), has also represented several men in paternal rights cases involving unborn embryos.
I spoke to to CIRM spokesman Dave Carlson today (his last day at that post, by the way) who said the Doe v. Klein, originally filed in 2005, challenges the right of the state of California to fund embryonic stem cell research, saying that the destruction of human embryos violates the 13th and 14th U.S. Constitutional amendments. The embryos, the argument goes, deserve equal protection under the law (13th amendment) and are being enslaved (14th).
The lawsuit was originally filed in Riverside, California, where a federal judge said that was the wrong place for it. Palmer should have filed in either San Francisco, where CIRM is located, or Sacramento, the state's capital.
On Tuesday, a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena will hear Palmer's appeal of that decision. It's just procedural, but the case, and others like it, aren't going likely going away, Carlson predicted:
Obviously we find the argument to be without merit, and frankly somewhat specious. Palmer appears to have been involved in a number of cases on behalf of pro-life organizations and it appears what they're trying to do is establish as a matter of federal law that a human embryo is the same as a person, which obviously has some implications for a range of different issues.
Our assumption is that someone like this is going to be suing CIRM from now until the project ends. It's just going to become a routine cost of doing business for us. But we believe we're on absolute rock solid legal ground.
He also said the lawsuit can't delay the institute's distribution of funds, as previous lawsuits did. CIRM is funded by a bond measure, Proposition 71, which California voters passed in 2004. The first bonds went up for sale a week ago. Wired