In re Marriage of Witten, decided by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2003, held that neither Tamera nor Arthur (Trip) Witten could use or destroy several cryopreserved preembryos created during their marriage using in vitro fertilization (IVF), unless the former couple could reach a mutual agreement. Tamera and Trip Witten, unable to conceive conventionally during their marriage, had attempted to start a family together using IVF at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha, Nebraska. When Trip sought to dissolve the marriage in April 2002, following several unsuccessful IVF attempts, seventeen of their preembryos were in storage at UNMC. The former couple disagreed about what should happen to the preembryos and asked the court for a resolution as part of the marital dissolution action. The high court of Iowa’s decision to restrict both individuals from using the cryopreserved preembryos without the other person’s consent reflected a belief that Tamera and Trip shared equal decision-making authority over the preembryos.

The South Korean government passed the Bioethics and Biosafety Act, known henceforth as the Bioethics Act, in 2003 and it took effect in 2005. South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare proposed the law to the South Korean National Assembly to allow the progress of biotechnology and life sciences research in South Korea while protecting human research subjects with practices such as informed consent. The Bioethics Act establishes a National Bioethics Committee in Seoul, South Korea. The Bioethics Act is the first law in South Korea to regulate research on embryonic stem cells and in vitro fertilization. Most South Korean bioethical policies rely on this act and its provisions.

In Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the US Supreme Court held in a five-to-four decision that the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by the US Congress was constitutional. Although the Court previously ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) that a Nebraska law that prohibited partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional, Gonzales reversed this decision. Gonzales created the precedent that anyone who delivers and kills a living fetus could be subject to legal consequences, unless he or she performed the procedure to save the life of the mother.

Golden Rice was engineered from normal rice by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer in the 1990s to help improve human health. Golden Rice has an engineered multi-gene biochemical pathway in its genome. This pathway produces beta-carotene, a molecule that becomes vitamin A when metabolized by humans. Ingo Potrykus worked at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and Peter Beyer worked at University of Freiburg, in Freiburg, Germany. The US Rockefeller Foundation supported their collaboration. The scientists and their collaborators first succeeded in expressing beta-carotene in rice in 1999, and they published the results in 2000. Since then, scientists have improved Golden Rice through laboratory and field trials, but as of 2013 no countries have grown it commercially. Golden Rice is a technology that intersects scientific and ethical debates that extend beyond a grain of rice.

In A.Z. v. B.Z. (2000), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Boston, Massachusetts, affirmed a lower courtÕs decision, ruling that contracts that require a party to become a parent against his or her will are unenforceable and contrary to public policy. The case centered around A.Z. and B.Z., a divorced couple who had previously used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to start a family together during their marriage and had several preembryos cryopreserved as part of the process. While undertaking IVF, the couple signed multiple consent forms requiring them to decide what should happen to the cryopreserved preembryos in the event of certain listed contingencies, such as death or separation of the couple. The couple indicated their preference that B.Z., A.Z.Õs now former wife, could use the cryopreserved preembryos if the couple later separated. When their relationship deteriorated, however, A.Z. objected to B.Z.Õs attempt to have additional children using the preembryos, leading to a lengthy legal battle. The court case A.Z. v. B.Z. established Massachusetts public policy that people should not be forced to become a parent against their will, even if they previously agreed to provide their genetic material for reproduction.

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA or the Act) was passed in the US in 1968 and has since been revised in 1987 and in 2006. The Act sets a regulatory framework for the donation of organs, tissues, and other human body parts in the US. The UAGA helps regulate body donations to science, medicine, and education. The Act has been consulted in discussions about abortion , fetal tissue transplants , and Body Worlds , an anatomy exhibition. The 1968 UAGA set a legislative precedent for the donation of fetal organs and tissues and has been in the background of many debates regarding abortion and fetal tissue research.

In the 2008 court case In the Matter of the Marriage of Dahl and Angle, the Court of Appeals of Oregon upheld a written in vitro fertilization (IVF) consent form signed by Laura and Darrell Angle, who had each contributed their genetic material to the creation of several preembryos during their marriage. Its decision followed the general framework for resolving such disputes provided by the Supreme Court of Tennessee in Davis v. Davis in 1992, which was subsequently followed by many courts across the US. The decision by the Court of Appeals of Oregon reinforced the idea that agreements that reflect the couple's intent at the time of undertaking IVF should be upheld, regardless of a later change of heart.

The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, commonly called the Warnock Report after the chair of the committee Mary Warnock, is the 1984 publication of a UK governmental inquiry into the social impacts of infertility treatment and embryological research. The birth of Louise Brown in 1978 in Oldham, UK, sparked debate about reproductive and embryological technologies. Brown was conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF), a process of fertilization that occurs outside of the body of the woman. At the time IVF was largely unregulated in the UK, both in law and within the protocol of the National Health Service (NHS), headquartered in London, UK. The Warnock Report recommended, and is credited with, establishing a governmental organization to regulate infertility treatments such as IVF and embryological research in general. In 1990, the UK established this governmental organization as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in London.

On 9 July 1990, in Moore v. Regents of the University of California, the Supreme Court of California ruled in a four-to-three decision that individuals do not have rights to a share in profits earned from research performed on their bodily materials. In its decision, the Supreme Court of California ruled that cancer patient John L. Moore did not have personal property rights to samples or fluids that his physicians took from his body for research purposes. Moore created the precedent in California that although physicians are required to disclose their research interests to their patients, patients do not have property-related claims to any samples that their physicians take from their body. The Supreme Court of California’s decision in Moore v. Regents of the University of California enabled physicians and researchers to retain legal ownership on samples taken from their patients’ bodies so that they can conduct what the court describes as socially important medical research, such as work on reproductive cancers or developmental disorders.

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