Georgia Law First in Nation to Govern Embryo Adoption

Tue Jul 7, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

ATLANTA, Georgia, July 7, 2009 ( - A state bill that came into effect July 1 has made Georgia the first in the nation with a law governing the adoption of embryos produced by in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

HB388 dictates the legal ramifications of a couple's bid to adopt excess embryos created during the IVF procedure of another couple, aligning the process more closely to the state's laws regarding the adoption of older children. 

Under the new law, the genetic mother and father can relinquish their rights to embryos before birth. Once the genetic parents have signed a written surrender of parental rights, an embryo could be transferred to its adoptive parents according to the adoption laws in Georgia.

"Under Georgia's current laws, a woman could implant an embryo and carry it to term, only to have the biological parents reassert their parental rights when she goes into labor," said Georgia Rep. James Mills in March, when the legislation passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives 108-61.  "That's not fair, and it's a risk that most people are unwilling to take."

Republican Governor Sonny Perdue signed the bill into law May 5, after passing the Senate 45-9.

Typically, embryo adoption and disputes have been guided by property laws, sometimes resulting in bitter disputes over what rights ought to be granted to the tiny human lives. 

Last October, an Oregon appeals court sided with the mother of six embryos, who wished them to be destroyed by thawing despite the protests of the father.  The court had deemed the matter a "property rights" issue, while the father had insisted that the law should protect the lives from destruction despite the mother's status as default decision-maker. 

Snowflakes, which was begun by Nightlight Christian Adoptions and is one of the oldest and most prominent embryo adoption agencies, says it supports the new law. 

"Science has outpaced our legislation in clarifying the rights of the parties in potential disputes involving embryo transfer between families," Nightlight Christian Adoptions Executive Director Ron Stoddart told the Baptist Press.

"There needs to be certainty, particularly before an embryo is thawed and implanted in the womb of an adopting mother."

An estimated 500,000 embryos in cryo-banks across the United States await either implantation or destruction.

See related coverage:

Oregon Court Orders Frozen Embryos Destroyed, Considered "Property Rights" Issue

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