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Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008

  • Last modified date:
    26 July 2010
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The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 13 November 2008.

The Bill was in Parliament for a year, during which it was subject to much debate and scrutiny from which it benefitted greatly. The Government announced a review of the 1990 Act in January 2004.

The Government undertook a review of the law primarily in response to technological developments, such as new ways of creating embryos that have arisen since 1990, and changes in society. The Act updates the law to ensure that it is fit for purpose in the 21st century. A main aim is to keep the UK at the forefront of developments in treatment and research.

What does the Act do?

The 2008 Act mainly amends the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Key provisions of the 2008 Act are to:

  • ensure that all human embryos outside the body – whatever the process used in their creation - are subject to regulation. 
  • ensure regulation of “human-admixed” embryos created from a combination of human and animal genetic material for research. 
  • ban sex selection of offspring for non-medical reasons.  This puts into statute a ban on non-medical sex selection currently in place as a matter of HFEA policy.  Sex selection is allowed for medical reasons – for example to avoid a serious disease that affects only boys
  • recognise same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos.  These provisions enable, for example, the civil partner of a woman who carries a child via IVF to be recognised as the child’s legal parent. 
  • retain a duty to take account of the welfare of the child in providing fertility treatment, but replace the reference to “the need for a father” with “the need for supportive parenting” – hence valuing the role of all parents
  • alter the restrictions on the use of HFEA-collected data to help enable follow-up research of infertility treatment. 

Commencement and implementation

The implementation process introduces regulations about conditions for extension of storage of gametes and embryos, Parental Orders, appeals and information.

In order to enable public consultation and Parliamentary debate on the affirmative regulations, it is planned that the majority of its provisions will come into force in October 2009, with the provisions relating to parenthood being commenced in April 2009.

An illustrative text, showing how the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 would look if amended by the Bill, has been produced to assist the reader:

An Impact Assessment has also been produced for the Bill:

Further information on the review of the Act can be found at:

  • Contact:
    Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill team
  • Address:
    Room 609
    Wellington House
    133-55 Waterloo Road
    SE1 8UG
  • Email:

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