The German Parliament has passed the Sperm Donor Registry Act, which will allow children born from 2018 onwards to access their donors' information.
'Everyone has the right to know who they descend from. With this law, we take this basic human need into account. Through the establishment of a national sperm donor registry, we strengthen the right of children to know their origins. At the same time, we will ensure for a high protection of stored personal data,' said health secretary Hermann Gröhe.
The law, passed on 18 May, will establish a central registry of sperm donors with identifying information including their name, address, nationality, and place of birth. Children conceived by sperm donation will have the right to request this information once they reach 16 years of age. Parents may also claim this information on behalf of their children if they are less than 16.
Registry data will be stored at the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI) in Cologne for 110 years, after which it will be deleted. Donors will be required to sign an informed consent form explaining the new requirements.
An amendment to the German Civil Code (BGB) has also clarified that donors are not considered legal fathers. Therefore, they are protected against claims for child support or inheritance from any children resulting from donated sperm.
Although the law received wide support in parliament, others believe that it does not go far enough.
The new law only applies in cases where artificial insemination is performed with a physician's assistance, such as for a fertility disorder. The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD) has criticised the law, as it excludes couples who receive artificial insemination through other means, especially as the high costs of physician-assisted treatment is not normally covered by health insurance plans.
The German Association of Sperm Donor Families (DI-NETZ) points out that over 100,000 children were conceived by sperm donation in Germany prior to 2007. Their donor information was in danger of being destroyed as the previous requirement was that it should be stored for only 10 years.
The new law stipulates that all existing donor information must also be kept for 110 years, but does not guarantee that children conceived through these earlier donations will have the same rights to access their donor information as under the new Registry.
The German Medical Association (BÄK) has expressed concerns that the law creates new uncertainties: it excludes families who use sperm donations from abroad, or 'pooled-donations' where a combination of donors is used.
These organisations, among others, are likely to push for further amendments and clarifications to the law following the parliamentary elections in September.