Government proposes partial easing of sperm donation, surrogacy regulations


OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is proposing new regulations that would lift a lifetime ban on men who have sex with other men from donating their sperm anonymously to Canadians struggling with infertility.

The proposed changes, up for review through public consultations, could also see surrogate mothers reimbursed for more of the expenses they face in trying to help people build their families.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says the new regulations under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, if enacted, will help protect the health and safety of women and children while offering Canadians flexibility in how they use reproductive technologies.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act came into force in 2004, but some parts have since been deemed unconstitutional.

Critics have complained the law creates costs and inconveniences for parents trying to have children, while failing to manage risks.

It is currently illegal to pay for sperm or eggs donated in Canada, but would-be Canadian parents can buy them from fertility clinics in the United States where compensation is legal.

As well, surrogate parents in Canada aren't allowed to charge for their services but can be reimbursed for limited medical or other expenses.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather introduced a private member's bill in the spring that would make it legal for egg and sperm donors to be paid.

The legislation, Bill C-404, has not passed first reading in the House of Commons.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen says the government’s proposed regulations are “diametrically opposed” to Housefather's bill.

Cohen, founder of Fertility Law Canada at D2Law LLP, says the proposed changes dealing with reimbursement are a step backwards.

“The regulations actually have us reimbursing donors and surrogates even less than we already are, which will only result in even fewer donors and surrogates,” she says.

“We already have only about 20 sperm donors per year in Canada's single national sperm bank and import about 95 per cent of our sperm.”

Cohen says she’s “very disappointed” with the government’s plan “and the lack of a more fulsome approach in thinking about the health and needs of intended parents and donor-conceived children.”

— with files from AdvocateDaily.com

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