Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed the Option of Adoption Act on May 5, making Georgia the first state with an embryo adoption law.
As the new law recognizes the potential of embryos, it is a celebration for pro-life supporters.
Embryo adoptions have existed at least since the 1980s.
When couples undergo in vitro fertilization, multiple embryos are typically created. People who decide not to use all the embryos are given choices:
Keep the embryos frozen until a future time.
Donate them for medical purposes â€" such as stem cell research.
Release them for adoption.
In embryo adoptions, embryos are implanted in women so they are allowed to physically give birth to their own adopted child. The problem? This terminology is rather sensitive.
As Reginald Finger explains in Embryo Adoption â€" A Life-Affirming Parenthood Choice", his article:
"Some medical infertility specialists are uncomfortable saying 'adoption' in this context because children are adopted, and if the embryo comes to be viewed as a child in the eyes of the law, couples might lose the choice of discarding the embryos or donating them to research.
Infertility practices might also come under stricter regulation. Pro-choice activists dislike the term for similar reasons. Legal scholars point out that at least in the U.S., statutes define adoption as the placement of a child after birth. Thus, they reason, use of the term might mislead couples as to what has actually occurred in the eyes of the law when an embryo is transferred."
Or, as University of Pennsylvania bioethics professor Arthur Caplan explains that use of the term adoption itself is "a deliberately political point."
Embryos have yet to be given human status, something that even Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program acknowledges.
As one of the oldest and most prominent embryo adoption agencies, Snowflakes through Nightlight Christian Adoptions in California started in 1997 and has overseen 200 plus embryo adoptions. Although embryo transfer to another party is handled as an adoption case through Snowflakes and other agencies, it is only considered property transfer by law.
The Option of Adoption Act changes that, and will most likely affect other state laws as well.