The Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (the Oviedo Convention) sets out two principles concerning embryos (Articles 14 and 18). It forbids the use of techniques of medically assisted procreation for the purpose of choosing a future child's sex (except where serious hereditary sex-related disease is to be avoided) and the creation of human embryos for research purposes. It also stipulates that, where the law allows research on embryos, it shall ensure adequate protection of the embryo.

Scientific, technological and medical developments which involve intervention on the embryo or fetus continue to accelerate, raising ethical and legal questions. Faced with these developments, it seemed important to undertake a more in-depth reflection on questions relating to the protection of the embryo and fetus and the use of techniques of medically assisted procreation in order to supplement the provisions of protection set out in the Framework Convention. To this end, a working group examined the ethical and legal problems linked to the possibilities of intervention on the embryo and fetus.