Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Another Sperm Donor Controversy: Part 2 - Donor-Assisted Conception Laws

Given that the widespread use of donor-assisted conception is relatively new, the legislation governing its use has only recently been introduced.  In contrast, legislation that establishes the responsibilities for more traditional parenting roles has not enjoyed the same the kind of in-depth examination.   As a result, men who lack the intention or desire to be a father, but who are nonetheless biological fathers, can have the usual legal responsibilities for their biological children. 
It is no accident that the legislation that governs the legal roles of sperm donors is so clear about the lack of legal responsibilities of sperm donors to the children that are created with their donation.  Canada, for example, examined the roles of sperm donors in the assisted human reproduction arena before establishing their respective laws.  The overarching goal of the laws regulating the use of sperm donors (as well as egg and embryo donors) was to encourage people to be comfortable donating sperm (or eggs or embryos) without the fear that any legal responsibility for any resultant children would ensue. 
In Canada, and originally in the U.K. the rights of the children born through sperm, egg or embryo donation to know the manner of their conception or the identity of their donor biological father or donor biological mother were determined to be less important than encouraging donations.  It was feared that if any hint of legal responsibility was infused into the laws, even to require donors to consent to the release of their identities to the children upon them reaching the age of majority, would limit the pool of potential donors and make it more difficult for individuals seeking donors for conception.  The U.K. has since revised this aspect of their law and now allows donor-conceived children to have access to their donor’s contact information, when they attain the age of majority.  This approach is much more in line with most modern adoption laws. 
As the use of donor-assisted conception increasing in countries like Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom so does the demand for donors.  Additionally, donor-assisted conception or assisted human reproduction technologies have become an accepted aspect of reproductive freedom.   It is no surprise, then, that in developing assisted reproduction laws, the legislators did not want to be seen as encroaching on the reproductive choices available. 
Moreover, assisted human reproduction legislators were reluctant to step on the toes of the clinicians who offer assisted reproductive services.  While in a country like Canada it is illegal to pay donors for anything above their out-of-pocket expenses related to the donation, the clinics that provide the services are largely private, for-profit enterprises.  Although there continues to be a great push to include assisted conception services within the public health care system in Canada, these services have remained within the private medical service industry. 
This article will be continued in a later blog post, which will analyse the legal distinction between a “sperm donor” and a “father.”

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Lisa is conducting a seminar for separated and divorced parents on December 4, 2012 in Leduc, Alberta. This seminar will address the challenges that can arise for separated and divorced parents through the holidays, such as accommodating various schedules and determining who gets to be with the children on the holidays.  For more information please go to www.lisatose.com where you may register online.

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