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Japanese bill defines parenthood in fertility treatment cases

23 November 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1073

A bill submitted to Japanese Parliament seeks to legally define the parental status of individuals who use sperm and egg donation.

The ruling coalition and opposition parties jointly submitted the bill calling for clarification of parental status regarding IVF involving a third individual to the House of Councillors, the upper house of the National Diet. As a result, women who give birth will be recognised as mothers and men who agree to sperm donation will be classed as fathers, rather than the egg or sperm donors themselves.

'The provisions aim to make parent-child relationships secure and establish a basic principle for assisted reproductive technology as a whole.' said Kozo Akino, Komeito's upper house Diet affairs chief, in a press conference following the submission of the bill. 

With an ageing population and a declining birth rate, this bill fits within Japan's aims to promote childbirth. Prime minister Yoshihide Suga has recently pledged increased access to fertility treatment, (see BioNews 1063). However, the commercial trade of gametes is still banned in Japan, resulting in hundreds of women using overseas sperm banks. Under this bill, it will be two years until gamete trade discussions commence.

Akino added, 'There are many matters for which we have not been able to obtain the Japanese public's consensus.' These include same-sex couples and single women who aspire to be mothers – groups that often seek overseas fertility treatment. Additionally, the bill does not address the rights of children to know the identity of their egg or sperm donor, or the parental rights of those who use surrogacy.

If the bill is passed, a nonpartisan parliamentary organisation will be established to begin discussions on these wider issues.

Bill seeks to clarify legal parents of children born through fertility treatment in Japan
The Mainichi |  17 November 2020
Bill submitted to clarify parenthood in fertility treatment cases
The Japan Times |  16 November 2020
Over 150 women in Japan bought from sperm bank amid absence of rules
Kyodo News |  18 November 2020
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