(CBS/AP) A U.S. judge on Monday temporarily blocked Obama administration regulations expanding stem cell research.
The nonprofit group Nightlight Christian Adoptions contends that the government's new guidelines will decrease the number of human embryos available for adoption.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the plaintiffs are entitled to bring their lawsuit in the courts.
A federal appeals court had ruled that two doctors who were among those bringing the lawsuit, adult stem cell researchers James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnlogy, had the authority to do so, prompting Lamberth to reverse a decision he made last October.
Lamberth said that the injury of increased competition that Sherley and Deisher would face because of the guidelines "is not speculative. It is actual and imminent. Indeed, the guidelines threaten the very livelihood of plaintiffs Sherley and Deisher."
Nightlight helps individuals adopt human embryos that are being stored in fertilization clinics. It began the program in 1997, using some of more than 400,000 frozen embryos.
Lamberth concluded that those filing the lawsuit have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success in arguing that the new government guidelines violate a law that prohibits the use of federal funds for research in which human embryos are destroyed.
It is in the public interest to block the government from implementing the guidelines because they allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of embryos, the judge said.
Stem cell research has the potential to produce breakthroughs in treating life-threatening diseases that have resisted traditional treatment.
"As demonstrated by the plain language of the statute, the unambiguous intent of Congress is to prohibit the expenditure of federal funds on 'research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed,"' Lamberth wrote.
"The question before the court is whether ESC research is research in which a human embryo is destroyed. The court concludes that it is," the judge added.
On March 9, 2009, President Obama signed an executive order to increase research that supporters believe could uncover cures for serious ailments from diabetes to paralysis.
Mr. Obama's action reversed former President George W. Bush's policy on stem cell research by undoing a 2001 directive that banned federal funding for research into stem lines created after that date.
"We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse," Mr. Obama said. "And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society."