ATLANTA The nation's first law governing the adoption of embryos is set to take effect in Georgia after being passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.
The "Option of Adoption Act," which will go into effect July 1, will provide safeguards for both parties involved in an embryo adoption, which is a unique form of adoption in which a couple often an infertile one adopts one or more surplus embryos from a couple who has undergone in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Embryo adoption allows the adopting mother to experience pregnancy and has been promoted by pro-lifers for years but, until now, has not been governed by the laws of any state. Significantly, the Georgia bill amends Georgia's adoption laws to make clear that embryo adoption in fact is a form of adoption. The law also allows adoptive parents to file in court for a final order of adoption (for the child who is born as the result of the embryo adoption), which supporters of the new law say clarifies that the adopting parents are eligible for claiming some but not all of their expenses for the federal adoption tax credit, which this year is more than $11,000.
Although embryo adoption tends to be cheaper than traditional adoption it nevertheless can still cost several thousands of dollars.
Couples who undergo an embryo adoption in a state without such a law as Georgia's must sign private legal contracts that treat the embryo as property. The new Georgia law defines an embryo as "an individualized fertilized ovum of the human species from the single-cell stage to eight-week development."
The law has the support of the nation's embryo adoption programs, including Nightlight Christian Adoptions, which runs the nation's oldest embryo adoption program the Snowflakes program.
"Science has outpaced our legislation in clarifying the rights of the parties in potential disputes involving embryo transfer between families," Ron Stoddart, executive director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, previously told Baptist Press. "There needs to be certainty, particularly before an embryo is thawed and implanted in the womb of an adopting mother."
The law makes clear that once the biological parents of the embryos and the adoptive parents have entered into a written contract, "the legal transfer of rights to an embryo shall be considered complete."
"A child born to a recipient intended parent as the result of embryo relinquishment ... shall be presumed to be the legal child of the recipient intended parent," the new law states.
Dan Becker, the president of Georgia Right to Life, said the law is noteworthy not only because of its first-in-the-nation status but also because of the way it defines an embryo.
"We became the first state in the nation to, in our code, define an embryo as beginning at the single stage," he said. "... That's a huge move forward and one that was fought quite aggressively by the pro-abortion side of the equation."
Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the bill into law May 5. It passed the House 108-61 and the Senate 45-9. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.