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Australian sperm donors' details could be linked to birth certificates

20 February 2012
Appeared in BioNews 645

The state parliament in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, is considering whether sperm and egg donors' details should be mandatorily recorded on their children's birth certificate.

Under the current law, only the two legal parents of the child can be recorded on the birth certificate but there are concerns that this limits the child's access to details of their biological parents later in life.

Donor information in the state is at present collected on a central register kept by the Department of Health. The NSW Health Central Register includes mandatory information about donors including their full name and address, ethnicity and medical history. Information is collected for children, born as a result of fertility treatment using donated gametes or embryos, conceived after 1 January 2010. Prior to this date such information could be provided voluntarily.

The inquiry is looking at whether this system for record keeping is adequate and if there should be provision for the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages to include donor details on the register of births.

Caroline Lorbach, from the Donor Conception Support Group, commented: 'We believe that all children born through donated gametes should have the right to know how they were conceived and the only way to do that is to have information either on or through their birth certificates'.

The Legislative Assembly Committee on Law and Safety has received more than 30 submissions to consider for the inquiry. These include suggestions that, in order to preserve the children's privacy, the information is 'hidden', enabling the child to use the birth certificate for public identification purposes without possible embarrassment. Secret notes or tags could be attached to the birth certificate indicating that more information is available to the child if they wish to obtain it when they reach 18 years old.

Vicki D'Adam, deputy director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, which put forward one of the submissions, said: 'Options for including donor information on the birth certificate would need to take into account issues of privacy to ensure that donor-conceived children are not stigmatised by being treated differently to other children'.

The inquiry follows a ruling by a NSW court last year allowing a sperm donor's name to be removed from a child's birth certificate, at the request of a lesbian couple who both sought to have both their names included. Judge Stephen Walmsley suggested at the time the law should be reformed to allow three parents to be listed on the birth certificate.

Inclusion of donor details on the register of births (Inquiry)
Law and Safety Committee, Parliament of New South Wales |  22 October 2021
Inquiry into inclusion of donor details on the register of births
Media Release - Legislative Assembly: Committee on Law and Safety |  19 October 2011
NSW Health Central Register
New South Wales Government - Health |  22 October 2021
Sperm donors considered for NSW birth certificates
ABC News |  17 February 2012
Sperm donors' secret details tagged on birth certificates
Daily Telegraph |  17 February 2012
14 March 2016 - by Professor Guido Pennings 
The State Legislature of Victoria has decided unilaterally to break their agreements with the sperm donors who donated before 1998 and will reveal their identity. It is difficult to imagine a measure that shows more disrespect for both donors and recipients...
11 January 2016 - by Dr Julia Hill 
The Donor Detectives is an ABC radio documentary about donor-conceived people who have turned to alternative methods in an attempt to identify their biological fathers....
17 February 2014 - by Patricia Cassidy 
A three-month-old baby has become the first child in British Columbia, Canada, to have three legal parents on their birth certificate after new legislation came into force last year...
22 April 2013 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has recommended that parents of donor-conceived children are best placed to tell them about their biological origins, but should not be mandated to do so...
11 February 2013 - by Richard Adams 
Re G (A Minor); Re Z (A Minor) 2013 (1) is a landmark High Court ruling in which, in the first known decision of its kind, two male sperm donors, known to the mothers, were granted permission to apply for contact with the children...
13 February 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
The Court of Appeal in the UK is hearing a case in which a gay man is fighting for greater parental access to his two-year old son he fathered with his lesbian ex-wife...
9 January 2012 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A Florida court has granted equal parental rights to two lesbian women who created a child using the eggs from one of the women, while the other carried the baby to term. It ruled that egg donors may acquire parental rights to children resulting from their gametes under the Florida and US Constitution....
5 September 2011 - by Dr Sonia Allan 
An Australian commercial television station recently ran a news story about a donor-conceived woman who has heritable bowel cancer (1). She did not inherit it from her mother. She is denied access to information about her sperm donor because he donated before laws in Victoria enabled information to be released to the donor-conceived. She cannot contact her eight half-siblings, who share that donor, to warn them they may be at risk...
22 August 2011 - by Oliver Timmis 
An Australian court has ruled that a lesbian couple can have the name of the sperm donor removed from their child's birth certificate....
6 December 2010 - by Professor Eric Blyth 
Australia has been a noted pacemaker in the field of assisted reproduction. It was the first nation to report embryo relinquishment for family-building, and a pregnancy and live birth from a previously cryopreserved human embryo. The Australian state of Victoria was among the world's first jurisdictions to remove the rights of gamete and embryo donors to remain anonymous...
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