The Dickey-Wicker Amendment is the name of an appropriation bill rider
attached to a bill passed by
United States Congress
United States Congress in 1995, and
signed by former
President Bill Clinton, which prohibits the
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from using appropriated
funds for the creation of human embryos for research purposes or for
research in which human embryos are destroyed. HHS funding includes
the funding for the
National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health (NIH). Technically
Dickey Amendment is a "rider" to other legislation, which amends
the original legislation. The rider receives its name from the name of
the Congressman that originally introduced the amendment,
Representative Jay Dickey. The Dickey amendment language has been
added to each of the Labor, HHS, and Education appropriations acts for
FY1997 through FY2009. The original rider can be found in Section 128
of P.L. 104-99 . The wording of the rider is generally the same
year after year. For FY2009, the wording in Division F, Section 509 of
the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009,  (enacted March 11, 2009)
prohibits HHS, including NIH, from using FY2009 appropriated funds as
SEC. 509. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used
(1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes;
(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
46.208(a)(2) and Section 498(b) of the Public Health Service Act
(42 U.S.C. 289g(b)) (Title 42, Section 289g(b), United States
(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 (the Human Subject Protection regulations) . . . that is derived by
fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one
or more human gametes (sperm or egg) or human diploid cells (cells
that have two sets of chromosomes, such as somatic cells).
In March 2009,
President Obama issued an executive order which removed
the restriction against federal funding of stem cell research.
However, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment remains an obstacle for federally
funded researchers seeking to create their own stem cell lines.
In August 2010, as part of preliminary motions in Sherley vs Sebelius,
Royce C. Lamberth granted an injunction against federally funded
embryonic stem cell (ESC) research on the grounds that the guidelines
for ESC research "clearly violate" the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. In
September 2010, he refused to lift the injunction pending the
conclusion of the case and the issuance of his ruling and a likely
appeal. In response, the Obama Justice Department asked the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to lift the injunction
via an order pending the appeal of Judge Lamberth's ruling, which
it did on April 29, 2011. Judge Lamberth was thereby obliged to
reverse his ruling, and grudgingly dismissed the case entirely on July
In the 2-1 opinion of April 29, 2011, the appeals panel said that the
Dickey-Wicker Amendment was "ambiguous" and that the National
Institutes of Health had "reasonably concluded" that although federal
funds could not be used to directly destroy an embryo, the amendment
does not prohibit funding a research project using embryonic stem
cells. This is an important distinction under the law, because for
federal funds to be used directly to support the destruction of
embryos- as opposed to indirect use just in embryo stem cell research
that avoids killing the embryo- is supposedly a violation of the Hyde
Amendment, which has been ruled constitutional and which prohibits
abortions using federal tax dollar funds (those questions will now
have to be settled by the whole Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit sitting en banc, or perhaps, ultimately, by the
Supreme Court of the United States).
History of US concerns about embryos
Federal concern with human embryo research began over 25 years ago
with the advent of assisted reproduction technologies, i.e. in vitro
fertilization (IVF) or "test tube babies."
Although the first report of laboratory studies of human fertilization
appeared in Science in 1944, (the work was conducted in Brookline,
Massachusetts), clinical IVF was successful first in
Great Britain in
1978 for couples with infertility. IVF became standard of care in
the United States in the early 1980s. As with all forms of clinical
treatment, the medical community looked to basic science research to
improve the safety and efficacy of IVF for mothers and babies.
In 1979, an Ethics Advisory Board for the National Institutes of
Health issued guidelines for research on early human embryos, but no
action was taken. The Federal Policy for the Protection of Human
Subjects (see: Human subject research legislation in the United
States) enacted in 1977 remained in place: 45CFR § 46.204(d), "No
application or proposal involving human in vitro fertilization may be
funded by the Department or any component thereof until the
application or proposal has been reviewed by the Ethical Advisory
Board and the Board has rendered advice as to its acceptability from
an ethical standpoint." Since there was no Ethics Advisory Board,
federally funded research was not possible.
Stem cell controversy
^ "P.L. 104-99". Thomas H.R.2880. The Library of Congress. Retrieved
^ "Public Law No. 111-8". Thomas H.R.1105. The Library of Congress.
^ "Obama's Stem Cell Policy Hasn't Reversed Legislative Restrictions".
Fox News. 2009-03-14. Archived from the original on March 18, 2009.
^ Stolberg, Sheryl (2009-03-08). "Obama Is Leaving Some Stem Cell
Issues to Congress". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
^ Katsnelson, A. (24 August 2010). "US court suspends research on
human embryonic stem cells". Nature. doi:10.1038/news.2010.428.
^ John Timmer (April 29, 2011). arsTechnica
Missing or empty title= (help)
^ Kaiser, Jocelyn (July 27, 2011). "Stem Court Ruling a Decisive
Victory for NIH". Science Insider. American Association for the
Advancement of Science. Archived from the original on
^ a b c Kiessling, Ann A. (August 24, 2010). "The History of the
Dickey-Wicker Amendment". Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation.
^ "On This Day". BBC Web. July 25. Check date values in: date=
^ Richards, III, JD, MPH, Edward P. (1993). "LSU LAW CENTER: Ethics
Advisory Boards". LSU Law Center's Medical and Public Heal