Helping individuals and couples build families is an incredible privilege and an awesome responsibility. At Genesis Fertility Centre our mission is to help couples and individuals safely build families with the latest evidenced-based technologies in a compassionate and individualized fashion and at a time that is right for them.
Since the 1978 birth of Louise Brown, the first human live birth after IVF, the indications for assisted reproductive technology (ART) have expanded. Today, through techniques such as egg freezing, we can not only cure infertility but we can help women who want to extend their child bearing years and therefore help close the “fertility gender gap”. This may help to afford women similar reproductive rights and options as men.
Egg and sperm donation as well as gestational carriers allow us to treat previously untreatable conditions and help individuals and couples who are missing one or more components required to conceive to achieve the dream of a family of their own.
Preimplantation genetic screening (aka CCS/ PGS/ PGT-A) may help us to increase reproductive efficiency after ART by screening for embryos which may have the best implantation potential. Through preimplantation genetic diagnoses (PGD), we can diagnose lethal or morbid genetic conditions in embryos preimplantation and therefore remove the suffering of future generations.
With all of these advancements in assisted reproductive technology, the “modern family” is a possibility for more people than ever before. In Canada, however, legislation still impedes that dream for many. In 2004, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHR Act) was enacted. The goal was to enforce legislation consistent with Canadian values and to regulate the practice of assisted technologies. Major components of the act include: the prohibition of compensation for egg and sperm donors and gestational carriers; the prohibition of the creation of embryos for a purpose other than conception; the criminalization of gender selection; and clearer direction on required and informed consent when accessing these procedures.
Third party reproduction by nature can lead to complicated situations. The provision of reproductive components does not guarantee parental rights, however, neither does it completely prevent them. Egg/sperm donation within Canada currently is altruistic and while, for example, a woman cannot claim parental rights, she may change her mind and does have the right to refuse utilization of her eggs at any point before donation/ fertilization.
Despite current Canadian laws prohibiting financial reimbursement of sperm/egg donors and gestational carriers, we are able to purchase and import sperm and eggs from outside the country – which can be helpful for couples and especially for single mothers and same sex female couples. Same sex male couples and singles, in addition to couples having difficulty conceiving, can additionally need gestational carriers in order to complete their families. Gestational carriers are very difficult to identify, especially as they must be altruistic and should ideally have completed their own child bearing, be under age 43, and in pristine health.
Prohibited compensation for 3rd party reproduction arose from public consultation and a desire to prevent reproductive trafficking. This is an important goal. However, in 2018, we have become far more progressive and understanding of the fact that many people require 3rd party reproduction to have a family.
Finally, this year, Andrew Housefather has tabled a private member’s bill to decriminalize compensation for 3rd party reproduction and to update legislation with current societal realties and values. We agree that careful consideration is necessary to prevent reproductive trafficking and medical tourism for surrogacy as well as jus soli (birthright citizenship) misuses but decriminalization is an important step to equality and family rights for all Canadians.
As a society, we have an opportunity to provide input in how this new legislation will be shaped. Until the end of the year, public consultation is invited on the proposed regulatory changes to the AHR Act. We encourage all Canadians to participate in shaping their society and in helping more Canadians to build families.
Detailed information on the proposed amendment and how to provide input can be found here.