Embryonic and Fetal Research Laws

1/1/2016

State laws regarding embryonic stem cells vary widely, with some restricting their use and others permitting certain activities.

Doctor looking into microsopeApproaches to stem cell research policy range from statutes in eight states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York—which encourage embryonic stem cell research, to South Dakota's law, which strictly forbids research on embryos regardless of their source. States that specifically permit embryonic stem cell research have established guidelines for scientists such as consent requirements and approval and review processes for projects. Table 2 summarizes state laws addressing research and restrictions of purchase/sale of human tissue for research.

Research Restrictions on Aborted Fetuses and Embryos. Many states restrict research on aborted fetuses or embryos, but research is often permitted with consent of the patient. Almost half of the states also restrict the sale of fetuses or embryos. Louisiana specifically prohibits research on in vitro fertilized (IVF) embryos. Illinois and Michigan also prohibit research on live embryos.

Bans on Experimentation. Several states have laws that prohibit or restrict fetal experimentation. Legislative examples follow. (Note: The below examples are also included in Table 2, which summarizes various state laws relating to research, sale and experimentation.)

Table 1: State Legislative Examples Restricting or Banning Fetal Experimentation
State Description of Legislation
Florida Chapter 390.0111-(6) Experimentation on fetus prohibited; exception.— No person shall use any live fetus or live, premature infant for any type of scientific, research, laboratory, or other kind of experimentation either prior to or subsequent to any termination of pregnancy procedure except as necessary to protect or preserve the life and health of such fetus or premature infant.
Indiana 16-34-2-6 (1993) Prohibits experiments (aside from pathological examinations) on an aborted fetus. Also bars transporting a fetus across state lines for the purpose of experimentation.
Kentucky 436.026 (1992) Prohibits experimentation on a "live or viable aborted child." Any person who shall sell, transfer, distribute, or give away any live or viable aborted child or permits such child to be used for any form of experimentation shall be guilty of a Class B felony.
North Dakota

14-02.2-01 and 14-02.2-02 (1975 and 1989)—Prohibits experimenting on a "dead fetus resulting from an occurrence other than an induced abortion" unless the woman has consented. Prohibits the use of fetal organ or tissue from an abortion for any research, experiment or study. Prohibits abortion for the purpose of transplantation, experimentation, or research or study.

Prohibits experimenting or conducting research on a "live human embryo, fetus, or neonate.” Allows research that does not harm the fetus as long as the women is not planning on aborting the fetus.

Ohio

2919.14  Abortion trafficking. 

(A) No person shall experiment upon or sell the product of human conception which is aborted. Experiment does not include autopsies pursuant to sections 313.13  and 2108.50 of the Revised Code.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of abortion trafficking, a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Oklahoma

§63‑1‑735  Sale of child, unborn child or remains of child ‑ Experiments.

Section 1‑735.  A. No person shall sell a child, an unborn child or the remains of a child or an unborn child resulting from an abortion. No person shall experiment upon a child or an unborn child resulting from an abortion or which is intended to be aborted unless the experimentation is therapeutic to the child or unborn child.

B. No person shall experiment upon the remains of a child or an unborn child resulting from an abortion. The term "experiment" does not include autopsies performed according to law.
South Dakota 34-23A-17 (1993) Prohibits research on or transplantation of an "unborn or newborn child who has been subject to an induced abortion" except when the abortion is necessary to protect the life of the woman.  

 

Restrictions on State Funds. Several states limit the use of state funds for cloning or stem cell research. Missouri law forbids the use of state funds for reproductive cloning but not for cloning for research, and Maryland's statutes prohibit state-funded stem cell researchers from engaging in reproductive cloning. Arizona law prohibits the use of public monies for reproductive or therapeutic cloning. Nebraska statutes limit the use of state funds for embryonic stem cell research. Restrictions apply only to state health care cash funds provided by tobacco settlement dollars. State funding available under Illinois Executive Order 6 (2005) may not be used for reproductive cloning or for research on fetuses from induced abortions. 

Table 2. State Laws Addressing Research and Restrictions of Purchase/Sale of Human Tissue for Research, 2015
 

State/Jurisdiction
Statute Section

Specifically
permits research on fetus/embryo

Restricts research on aborted fetus/ embryo

Consent provisions to conduct research on fetus/embryo3

Restricts research on fetus or embryo resulting from sources other than abortion

Restrictions of purchase/sale human tissue for research

Arizona
§§36-2302, 2303

No

Yes, prohibits research on aborted living/non-living embryo or fetus

No

Yes, prohibits the use of public monies for cloning for research

No

Arkansas
§§20-17-802, 20-16-1001 to 1004

No

Yes, prohibits research on aborted live fetus

Yes, consent to conduct research on aborted fetus born dead

Yes, prohibits research on cloned embryos

Yes, prohibits sale of fetus/fetal tissue

California Health & Safety 2004 Proposition 71 §§ 123440, 24185, 125300-320

Yes, permits research on adult and embryonic stem cells from any source

Yes, prohibits research on aborted live fetus

Yes, consent to donate IVF embryo to research

Prohibits sale of embryos and oocytes; prohibits payment in excess of the amount of reimbursement of expenses to be made to any research subject to
encourage her to produce human oocytes for the purposes of medical research

Yes, prohibits sale for the purpose of reproductive cloning or for stem cell research

Connecticut §§4-28e; 19a-32d et seq.

Yes, on embryos before gastrulation (a process during embryonic development)

 No

Yes, consent to donate IVF embryo to research

 No

Yes, prohibits payment for embryos, embryonic stem cells unfertilized eggs or sperm donated following IVF treatment 

Florida
§390.0111

No

Yes, prohibits on aborted live fetus

No

No

No

Illinois
720 ILCS 510/6, 510/12.1 
Executive Order 6 (2005);410 ILCS 110/1 et seq.

Yes, permits research on embryonic stem cells, embryonic germ cells and adult stem cells from any source

Yes, prohibits on aborted living/
nonliving fetus

Yes, written consent to perform research on cells or tissues from a dead fetus other than from an abortion

Yes, prohibits research on fetus/fertilized embryo; prohibits funding under E.O. 6 (2005) of research on fetuses from induced abortions and the creation of embryos through the combination of gametes solely for the purpose of research

Yes, prohibits sale of fetus/fetal tissue; prohibits purchase or sale of embryonic or fetal cadaveric tissue for research but permits reimbursement for removal, storage and transportation for research

Indiana
§35-46-5-1, 16-18-2-5.5

Yes, permits fetal stem cell research on placenta, cord blood, amniotic fluid or fetal tissue

Yes, prohibits research on aborted living/non-living embryo or fetus

Yes, consent required for fetal stem cell research

Yes, prohibits research on cloned embryos

Yes, prohibits sale of human ovum, zygote, embryo or fetus

Iowa
§707C.4

Yes, ensures that Iowa patients have access to stem cell therapies and cures and Iowa researchers may conduct stem cell research

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits transfer or receipt of the product of human reproductive cloning

Kentucky
§436.026

No

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits sale of fetus/fetal tissue

Louisiana
§14: 87.2

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits research on fetus/embryo in utero, in vitro fertilized embryo

No

Maine 22§1593

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits research on fetus/embryo born or extracted alive, only applies to in vitro fertilized embryos post-implantation

Yes, prohibits sale of fetus/fetal tissue

Massachusetts
112§12J, 2005 SB 2039

Yes, on embryos that have not experienced more than 14 days of development (not including days frozen)

Yes, prohibits research on embryo/live fetus

Yes, written consent to perform research on a dead fetus and informed consent to donate egg, sperm, or unused preimplantation embryos created for IVF

Yes, prohibits research on live embryo or fetus; also prohibits creation of fertilized embryo solely for research

Yes, prohibits sale of neonate, embryo or fetus for illegal purposes; prohibits sale of embryos, gametes or cadaveric tissue for research

Michigan
§§333.2687-2688 §§333.16274-16275333.20197,333.26401-26403, 750.430a

No

Yes, live embryo/
fetus

Yes, written consent of mother to donate dead embryo, fetus or neonate to research

Yes, prohibits research on a live
embryo or fetus, cloned embryo

No

Minnesota
§§145.421, 422

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits research on a live embryo or fetus up to 265 days post fertilization

Yes, permits the sale/purchase of cell culture lines from nonliving human conceptus

Missouri
§§188.036, 037

No

Yes, prohibits research on a fetus alive pre-abortion

No

No

Yes, prohibits receipt of valuable consideration for aborted fetal organs or tissue

Montana
§50-20-108(3)

No

Yes, prohibits research on a live fetus

No

No

No

Nebraska
§§28-342, 346, 71-7606

No

Yes, prohibits research on aborted live fetus or the use of state funds for research on fetal tissue obtained from an abortion

No

Yes, limits the use of state funds for embryonic stem cell research; restrictions only apply to state healthcare cash funds provided by tobacco settlement dollars

Yes, prohibits sale, distribution or donation of viable aborted child

New Hampshire
§§168-B:1, 15 

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits the maintenance of a unfrozen fertilized pre-embryo past 14 days

Yes

New Jersey C.26:2Z-1 et seq.; C.2C:11A-1

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

New Mexico
§24-9A-1, 3, 5

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits research on a fetus/embryo born or extracted alive, only applies to in vitro fertilized embryos post-implantation

Yes, prohibits abortion for the purpose of selling the fetus to researchers

New York Public Health Law Article 2, Title 5A

Yes, permits research on adult and embryonic stem cells from any source No No    

North Dakota
§14-02.2-01, 2;2003 HB 1424

No

Yes, prohibits research on a living/non-living embryo or fetus

Yes, requires consent to conduct research on a nonliving fetus or embryo other than from an abortion

Yes, prohibits research on a fetus born or extracted alive; cloned embryos

Yes, prohibits the sale of a fetus to be used for illegal purposes

Ohio
§2919.14

No

Yes, prohibits research on a living/non-living embryo or fetus

No

No

Yes, prohibits sale of fetus or fetal remains from an abortion

Oklahoma 63 §1-735

No

Yes, prohibits research on a fetus/embryo

No

No

Yes, prohibits sale of fetus or fetal remains

Pennsylvania 18 §§3203, 3216

No

Yes, prohibits research on a live embryo or fetus

Consideration may not be given to mothers consenting to research; in cases involving abortion, consent must be provided after decision to abort

No

Yes, consideration may not be given to mothers consenting to research or other transferring tissue except for expenses involved in actual retrieval, storage, etc.

Rhode Island
§11-54-1

No

No

Yes

Yes, prohibits research on a fetus/embryo born or extracted alive, only applies to in vitro fertilized embryos post-implantation

Yes, prohibits sale of neonate, embryo or fetus for illegal purposes

South Dakota
§§34-14-16, 17, 20; 34-23A-17

No

Yes, prohibits research on a living/non-living embryo or fetus

No

Yes, prohibits research on embryo outside of a woman's body; research on cells or tissues derived from an embryo outside a woman's body

Yes, prohibits sale of embryo

Tennessee
§39-15-208

No

No

Yes, consent required to conduct research on aborted fetus

No

Yes, prohibits sale of aborted fetus

Texas Penal
Code §48.02

No

No

No

No

Prohibits sale of fetus/fetal tissue

Utah
§§76-7-301, 310

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits research on a live fetus, fertilized embryo post-implantation1

Yes, prohibits sale of fetus/fetal tissue; also prohibits sale of live unborn children, which is not defined, but are referred to in abortion statute1

Virginia
§32.1-162.32-2

No

No

No

May prohibit research on a cloned embryo or fetus2

Yes, prohibits shipping or receiving of the product of human cloning for commerce2

Wyoming
§35-6-115

No

No

No

No

Yes, prohibits sale, distribution or donation of live or viable aborted child, defined to include embryos, for experimentation

Source: NCSL, LexisNexis, Statenet

1Abortion is defined as a procedure undertaken to terminate a human pregnancy after implantation of a fertilized ovum or kill a live unborn child. Therefore, the statute may cover only fertilized ovum.

2Virginia law does not expressly prohibit research on cloned embryos, but it is forbidden to possess the product of human cloning. Under the state human cloning statute human cloning is defined as the creation of or attempt to create a human being by transferring the nucleus from a human cell from whatever source into an oocyte from which the nucleus has been removed. Human being is not defined as to whether it includes neonates, embryos or fetuses only.

3Some states have requirements for consent regarding the disposition of human embryos prior to in vitro fertilization that may impact donation to research. Please click here for more information.

Note: The legislative examples included above may not be comprehensive. NCSL appreciates additions and corrections.