The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed two lawsuits challenging the executive order and implementing regulations allowing the use of some frozen embryos for stem cell research. Doe v. Obama, Nos. 10-1104 & 10-1106 (4th Cir., decided January 21, 2011). One set of plaintiffs sought to represent a putative class of all frozen embryos in the United States; the second set were parents who have children they adopted as frozen embryos and who were considering adopting embryos in the future. The court expressed its appreciation for the litigants’ deeply held convictions, but said that courts lack the constitutional authority to hear cases where the plaintiffs lack a particularized and imminent injury fairly traceable to the defendant’s challenged action.

According to the court, neither set of plaintiffs could allege particularized and imminent injury fairly traceable to the executive order and implementing regulations, and thus, they lacked standing to pursue their claims. The appeals court affirmed the lower court’s ruling dismissing the claims and noted that “the complaint presents what is essentially a policy dispute over the administration’s approach to stem cell research.” If the court were to hear cases in such circumstances, it would be transformed “into more political organs, less differentiated from the workings of the political branches whose actions we are now requested to review.”