Cohen to discuss Canadian surrogacy law at ABA webinar

Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen will share her insights on recent surrogacy law-related changes in Canada as part of an upcoming webinar, hosted by the American Bar Association (ABA). Read more

CFAS support for surrogate, donor compensation is 'important'

The Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society’s (CFAS) call for a change in the law to permit “reasonable compensation for gamete donors and surrogates” sends a strong message to Ottawa that continuing to prohibit it is against social norms, says Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen . Read more

Surrogacy expense reimbursement creates practical challenges

Although the tension over expense reimbursement for surrogates in Canada may be academically interesting, the issue is very problematic from a practical perspective, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells The Toronto Star . Read more

New legislation: a mixed bag for surrogacy in Ontario

Although the new All Parents Are Equal Act contains positive provisions related to gamete donation, the legislation contains few benefits when it comes to surrogacy agreements, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells Law Times . Read more

Fertility law practice working with growing number of single dads

There is growing evidence that more men across Canada are choosing single fatherhood via surrogacy — as Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells the Toronto Star , she has seen an increase in the number of single dads in her practice over the last few years. Read more

Vergara legal battle over frozen embryos highlights important issues

Although a legal battle is brewing in the U.S. between an actress and her ex-partner over whether he has a right to use their frozen embryos, in Canada, the law clearly sets out that both parties' consent is required to make use of an embryo where both parties' gametes were used to create the embryo, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells Newstalk 770 . Global News Read more

All Families are Equal Act generally a good Law for Ontario parentage

Although Ontario’s new All Families Are Equal Act (Bill 28) is welcome legislation, it does make gestational surrogacy more legally risky than it was in the past, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells Above the Law. Read more

Lack of regulation for care, monitoring of donors 'concerning'

Although Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells Global News that the services offered at Canadian fertility clinics in Canada are “generally excellent,” she says there is a need for more regulation and oversight in the industry. Read more

Fertility lawyer helps dispel myths around surrogacy

Although society has become more comfortable with the concept of surrogacy and third-party reproduction in general, a number of myths and misconceptions persist, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells Global News. Read more

Allegations against fertility doctor 'sad and upsetting'

Allegations against an Ontario doctor that he used his own biological material to impregnate certain patients who came to him for treatment raise many important legal questions, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells CTV News. Read more

All Families are Equal Act problematic for surrogacy in Ontario

By Sara Cohen . Dear Ontario: We have a lot to celebrate. For a long time now, we have hung our heads in collective shame about the gross discrimination and lack of family security and recognition provided to any family that uses donor gametes (eggs and/or sperm) or donor embryos to conceive a child. The discriminatory law was particularly egregious in the case of two-mom families but was problematic for many types of families. The All Families Are Equal Act (the Act) rectifies Ontario's discrimination, allows for non-heteronormative presumptions of parentage so that a non-carrying parent need not adopt their own child, and provides much needed clarity that a donor is not a legal parent. However, along with these important and positive steps, the Act touches on other aspects of family building in Ontario that have not been discussed in the media and warrant greater examination. In particular, with the notable exceptions of requiring a written surrogacy agreement and independent legal advice for all parties involved (both of which I fully support!,) the All Families are Equal Act makes some drastic changes to surrogacy law in Ontario that I believe are misguided and ought to be reconsidered. Read more

Cohen featured panellist at Lean In Canada entrepreneurship event

Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen will share her insights and experiences with attendees at an upcoming entrepreneurship networking event, presented by the Toronto chapter of Lean In Canada. Read more

More debate needed on evolving fertility procedures: Cohen

Canada’s fertility laws are struggling to keep pace with advances in technology and evolving society values, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells Global News. Read more

How the AHRA hurts donor-conceived children in Canada

By Sara Cohen . Recently, Theresa Boyle of the Toronto Star published an article lauding Health Canada’s initiative to add further regulations and requirements for both donor sperm collected in Canada, and international donor sperm imported into Canada, as well as the extremely welcome move of relaxing the regulations for known donor sperm (also known as directed donation.) I take no issue with Canadian (and/or provincial) moves to protect Canadians from avoidable health risks, and believe that laws such as those dealing with health regulations should be updated frequently as new technologies emerge and best practices change. That being said, there is a larger picture issue that is being missed here that needs to be examined: as long as the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (the AHRA) prohibits compensating sperm donors, Canada will continue to be completely reliant on the will and policies of jurisdictions other than our own, and Canadians need to understand what that effectively means. I have lectured frequently on this topic. In the past year alone, I have spoken about it at Osgoode Hall Law School, McGill University Faculty of Law (where I had the opportunity to chat with MP Anthony Housefather , who has brought welcome attention to this important topic,) and the National Family Law Program. However, these issues need to be understood not only by the academia but the public at large. Canadians should be aware of just how harmful the AHRA is to Canadians (most notably to the donor-conceived children) so that the AHRA and the related social policies can be properly re-evaluated. The current on-the-ground reality in Canada is this: If you need to use donor sperm, you have a few options. If you do not have a known sperm donor willing to provide sperm and/or are unwilling to take on the significant legal risk to the security of your family (depending on the province in which you reside,) you then look to a sperm bank. Since 2004, when the AHRA came into force making compensating a sperm donor illegal and punishable by up to ten years in jail and/or a fine of $500,000, all of the national sperm banks across Canada have shut down, with the exception of Repromed in Toronto. Despite Repromed’s significant efforts in trying to attract more altruistic sperm donors, today Canada’s only sperm bank is down to about 20 donors. That means Canada has about 20 sperm donors to service the reproductive needs of an entire country. And, if you or your partner are non-Caucasian and would like a specific racial background or heritage reflected in the genetic makeup of your child, you are down to a couple of donors at best – the same couple of donors as are available to everyone else in your community. Or, if you are part of a specific community that tends to make a lot of use of donor sperm, such as the lesbian community, you should understand that many people in your same community will be conceiving children using the sperm of the same 20 donors, too. And of course, those same 20 donors’ gametes are used again and again and again. How could we restrict the number of times a specific donor’s gametes are being used when there are so few donors to go around? As long as the AHRA continues to criminalize compensating a sperm donor, this situation isn’t likely to improve in any significant way. The next option you might consider is importing sperm from a sperm bank outside of Canada. By far, most Canadians who use sperm from a sperm bank use imported sperm from the United States, or to a lesser extent some European countries. Of course, this sperm is anonymously donated or at best open-identity release (meaning that a donor conceived person upon reaching the age of majority can reach out to the sperm bank and find out information about the donor. This, of course, is governed by contract and not regulated, so we had better hope that the sperm bank is still in existence at the time, and that the donor and the bank have not lost contact.) It is effectively impossible for any province to create a donor registry of any sort (including a donor registry of non-identifying information) for sperm imported from other countries. And the irony (absurdity!) is that all this imported sperm is paid for anyways – the recipients are purchasing the sperm and the donor was paid by the international sperm bank, all legally under the AHRA as long as that original payment didn’t happen in Canada. You might notice that all of the Canadian values and overarching policy concerns including the health and best interests of the child have been thrown out with the bath water by now. Of course, Canada should require that imported gametes meet certain standards to protect the health and safety of Canadians. However, Canada is effectively trying to bend the U.S. sperm banks to our will and our policy, even though U.S. policy and law doesn’t require or expect the same. For example, the U.S. does not seem to require that a U.S. sperm bank review the medical records of a donor or perform some types of testing that Health Canada would require. Should the U.S. sperm banks be doing so? I might think so and you might think so, but under U.S. law it currently isn’t required and U.S. policy seems to permit the sperm banks to contract out of this. Despite this, Canada could attempt to bend U.S. policy to our will except for two small but important points: 1. We need them. We have almost no donor sperm in Canada. And 2. The Canadian market is relatively small and it doesn’t necessarily make economic sense for these sperm banks to meet the more rigorous standards Canada imposes. This would not be the first time I have seen international sperm banks decline to work with Canada or decline to continue to work with Canada because of the difficulty in working with the Canadian requirements. The result being, of course, even less donor sperm available for use by Canadians. Don’t misunderstand me – I am all for the reasonable, effective regulation regarding donor gametes in Canada and those imported into Canada. But we can only do that properly and effectively with Canadian gametes (international sperm banks won’t necessarily want to or have reason to play by our more stringent rules.) And to get a reasonable number of Canadian donor gametes available, we are going to have to jettison the prohibition on compensating gamete donors in Canada. Personally, I would rather see a sperm donor paid a fixed $200 per donation and be able to regulate effectively, than continue with this mess we are currently in. Canada, it is time to admit that the AHRA is a failed experiment. Any “good” created by not permitting the purchase of sperm from a donor in Canada is far outweighed by the absurdity of a situation where we instead use sperm from compensated donors anyways, and have no real opportunity to self-regulate in a way in line with all the other related Canadian values. Read more

Vague language in surrogacy laws affecting all involved

Laws criminalizing compensated surrogacy likely only hurt those they are trying to protect, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen tells the Toronto Star . Read more