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Legal Issues That May Arise With In Vitro Fertilization

In vitro fertilization is defined as a method of assisted reproduction in which a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg oocyte are combined in a laboratory dish, where fertilization occurs. The resulting embryo is then transferred to the uterus to develop naturally.


There has been little attempt by either state or federal governments to regulate the performance of in vitro fertilization. However, some states have attempted to regulate the procedure by way of medical insurance. Some states have policies in place that exclude in vitro fertilization from coverage under medical insurance policies, whereas other states have policies to include such procedures. The federal government permits qualified Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to exclude in vitro fertilization from their basic health services.

There are a handful of states including Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and New Mexico, which have made direct attempts to regulate in vitro fertilization by legislation.


Although federal regulations for federally funded research bar research that would result in harm to a fetus, these regulations do not apply to the medical use of in vitro fertilization for infertility or related problems.

Issues that May Arise

There are numerous issues that may arise with respect to the procedure of in vitro fertilization. Issues that may arise include:

  • Safekeeping of ovum or egg.
  • Liability for ovum or egg.
  • Custody issues over the ovum or egg.
  • Inheritance rights of the ovum or egg.
  • Parentage issues when the fertilized egg is replanted in the donor.
  • Parentage issues when the sperm used is donor sperm.
  • Parentage issues when the egg used for fertilization is from a donor.
  • Parentage issues when the fertilized egg is placed in another woman other than the donor.

Issues to Consider Prior to Engaging in the Process of In Vitro Fertilization

There are a number of issues to consider prior to engaging in the process of in vitro fertilization. Issues that may be considered include:

  • What relevant state statutes or regulations are applicable?
  • What relevant federal regulations are applicable?
  • Is there any current caselaw that may affect the in vitro fertilization process?
  • Is payment permissible for an ovum or egg or sperm donation?

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