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Canadian MP's bill to decriminalise surrogacy and donor payments

4 June 2018
Appeared in BioNews 952

A private member's bill aims to decriminalise payments for sperm, eggs and surrogacy in Canada.

MP Anthony Housefather, whose constituency is in Montreal, tabled the private member's bill in the House of Commons to legalise payments for gametes and surrogacy. The bill has won the support of at least eight other MPs but has not yet been debated.  

'Criminalisation is meant to eradicate societal evils. The desire to have a child or to help someone have a child is not evil,' said Housefather.

The 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits monetary compensation to surrogates or to those donating gametes. Legislation states that surrogacy should be altruistic in nature although surrogates can be reimbursed up to C$20,000 for pregnancy-related costs, such as healthcare and travel.

'It's a family-building issue, a women's health issue, a reproductive health issue, and an LGBT issue. It's time Canada got it right,' said Sarah Cohen, founder of Fertility Law Canada.

Canada has a shortage of gamete donors and surrogates so most couples who need surrogacy have to go abroad, often to the USA where paid surrogacy is legal in some states but can be extremely expensive.

A shortage of sperm donors within Canada means that most sperm used in fertility clinics is imported. Cohen points out that most of this sperm comes from paid donors anyway, with the added difficulties of lack of control over how many families are created from a single donor, and lack of donor information for the resulting children.

The Association of Reformed Political Action Canada oppose the bill: 'Our law needs to respect the best interests of all children and to defend their human dignity. For a donor-conceived child, this means defending the right to know the identity of their genetic parents. Commodifying gametes reduces a child to a purchased product.'

Dr Alana Cattapan, assistant professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan advises legislators to wait until Health Canada issues clearer rules about sperm, eggs and surrogacy, expected later this year. The department has been working on regulations since 2016 that would, among other things, spell out the expenses donors and surrogates would be entitled to have reimbursed.

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