Articles and Commentary For and Against Changes to the AHRA

November 21, 2018 Proposal to pay sperm and egg donors, surrogates spawns controversy: Bill C-404 would legalize financial compensation for egg and sperm donors, surrogates in Canada. CBC news.

“While many see sperm and egg donation as a way to make it easier for couples struggling with infertility, LGBT couples or prospective single parents to have children, the meeting does not explicitly invite donor-conceived people. With commercial DNA tests on the rise, those donor-conceived people are finding their hidden genetic history online after decades of donor anonymity being the norm — and they’re demanding new protections in the world of assisted reproduction.

“I felt it was a real slap in the face to donor-conceived adults and really tone deaf by the department of health to not even realize we were stakeholders and an integral part of this process,” said Martin. “My intention is to go there and make our presence known and get it on the public record.”


As someone who has spent a significant amount of money and time to become a mother, Reich recounts the emotional turmoil of the possibility of losing an egg donor at the last minute because the donor simply changed her mind.

“The whole framework here [in Canada] is ‘Oh, I’m so lucky and I should just be so grateful that they’re donating.’ Well actually, I’m shelling out tens of thousands of dollars, so am I lucky or am I really buying a service? Whether you call it that or not — if I’m buying a service, don’t I deserve quality and don’t I deserve somebody who’s committed, who’s not going to flake out on me?” says Reich.

October 29, 2018Reimbursing Surrogates & Donors. Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy, Dalhousie University François Baylis. Impact Ethics.

“The proposed new regulations […] specify which expenditures can be reimbursed. Egg and sperm donors as well as surrogates can be reimbursed for travel expenditures, care of dependents, counselling services, legal services, insurance coverage, and more. In addition, surrogates can be reimbursed for maternity clothes, expenditures related to the delivery, as well as loss of work-related income due to pregnancy.
In addition to listing reimbursable expenditures, the proposed new regulations stipulate that all expenditures are to be receipted and properly documented, with all documents kept for a period of six years. As well, a team of inspectors is to ensure that the regulations are enforced.
With the introduction of a robust regulatory framework we have a clear and viable alternative to the commercialization of assisted human reproduction. For much of this past year, special interest groups as well as clinicians, lawyers and brokers working in the fertility industry have been lobbying to replace the current federal altruistic system with provincial commercial systems.”

October 26, 2018Reimbursement Related to Assisted Human Reproduction Regulations. By The Government Of Canada, Department of Health. Canada Gazette, Part 1, Volume 152, Number 43.

This document outlines regulations for reimbursement of gamete donation and surrogacy including:
The following expenditures incurred by a donor in the course of donating ova or sperm may be reimbursed:

  • (a) travel expenditures, including expenditures for transportation, parking, meals and accommodation;
  • (b) expenditures for the care of dependants;
  • (c) expenditures for counselling services;
  • (d) expenditures for legal services and disbursements;
  • (e) expenditures for any drug or device as defined in section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act;
  • (f) expenditures for products or services that are provided by or recommended in writing by a person authorized under the laws of a province to practise medicine in that province;
  • (g) expenditures for health, disability or life insurance coverage; and
  • (h) expenditures for obtaining or confirming medical or other records.”

October 26, 2018Ottawa Proposes Partial Easing of Sperm Donation, New Surrogacy Regulations. By Terry Pedwell. The Globe and Mail. 

“The Trudeau government proposed new regulations Friday that would lift a 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, including loss of income.”

October 26, 2018 – Liberals Pitch New Rules on Payments for Surrogates, Sperm donors. By Kathleen Harris. CBC News.

“In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s time for Canadian society to wrestle with the controversial issue of paying women to carry other people’s babies.
He called surrogacy an “extremely important issue” that affects many prospective parents, including same-sex and infertile couples. He said he expects the debate to draw extreme opinions and emotions.
The issue has been contentious in the past, even within feminist circles. Proponents of paid surrogacy say the ban denies women the right to do what they want with their bodies. Opponents say it amounts to commercializing a woman’s body.”

August 13, 2018  – Who has Control Over Frozen Embryos After Divorce? by doctoral candidate at McGill University’s Faculty of Law Stefanie Carsley. The Globe and Mail.

“What about treating embryos as property? The Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which criminalizes paying for sperm and eggs in Canada, makes clear that reproductive material is not property that may be exchanged on the market. Adopting a property approach also means that embryos could be used as a bargaining chip in acrimonious divorces.”

June 9, 2018Has the Age of the Anonymous Sperm Donor Ended? By Elizabeth Payne. Ottawa Citizen. 

““The basic human right to know where you come from should not be denied (to) people conceived through a medical procedure,” said Jackson who founded the group We Are Donor Conceived.
She and others say Canadian law needs to catch up to the new reality, to make sure the rights of the donor-conceived are protected.
Donor offspring groups and individuals have increasingly become vocal about issues around assisted reproduction in recent years. In addition to an end to donor anonymity, donor offspring have called for strict limits on how many times one sperm sample is used to conceive a child. Some of them have found hundreds of half siblings — all conceived with sperm from the same donor. In surveys, most people who were donor conceived say the limit should be about 10.”

June 3, 2018Canadian Parents Want to do More for the Surrogates Carrying Their Babies. By Rebecca Lindell. Global News.

“Health Canada intends to establish within the reimbursement regulations for Section 12 of the ARHA broad categories of expenditures for which donors and surrogates may be reimbursed,” the department said in a statement.
Until then, the private members bill will continue through the parliamentary process. All parties have said they will look at the proposed bill and study whether it is in the interest of Canadians, so there’s no guarantee of if or when it could become law.
In the meantime, intended parents like Black and Wood will have to look for creative, non-monetary ways to show their appreciation.

May 29, 2018Liberal MPs Private-Member’s Bill Would Lift Restrictions on Third-Party Reproduction by Carly Weeks. The Globe and Mail. 

But a group of medical experts and ethicists say the changes would create a regulatory vacuum and turn the creation of children into a monetary transaction that could have worrisome consequences. In a joint statement, the group of seven experts, which includes law, health-policy and bioethics professionals, outlined several concerns, such as the possible exploitation of women. In addition, if the free market is allowed to dictate price, the cost for donor eggs, sperm or surrogacy services could also increase substantially, said Alana Cattapan, assistant professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan and one of the joint-statement signatories.”

May 7, 2018Stop the Commercialization of Surrogacy by Erin Lepine. Law times.

Housefather alleges that those most expert and involved in fertility are completely unanimous in their support for commercialization. I respectfully disagree. I am a lawyer who actively practises in fertility law. I do not support the commercialization of surrogacy or gamete donation in Canada. Commercialization of surrogacy, egg donation and sperm donation in Canada would work in the face of core Canadian values — the values that informed the altruistic nature of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act when it was enacted and values that remain relevant (not outdated as Housefather has suggested) in Canadian society today.

May 1, 2018Paying for Surrogacy, Sperm and Eggs Shouldn’t be a Crime by MP Anthony Housefather. The Hamilton Spectator.

We need to decriminalize payment. Let the provinces step in and fully regulate the arrangements between parents and surrogates, agencies and donors, including compensation. This can include caps on payments.

May 1, 2018Argument of Paying for Surrogacy, Sperm and Eggs Based on Misinformation by Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy, Dalhousie University François Baylis and Assistant Professor, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan Alana Cattapan. The Toronto Star. 

Very few jurisdictions around the world — some American states, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and Iran — permit payment for surrogacy. Some countries that previously welcomed Westerners seeking to pay for surrogacy — including Nepal, Thailand, India, and Mexico — are now increasing regulations to control (and in some cases to eliminate) their commercial markets.
Countries with which Canada has historically been aligned (including, the United Kingdom, Denmark, New Zealand, and most of Australia) have laws banning commercial surrogacy that are very similar to ours.
What Canada needs is improved federal intervention to ensure that assisted reproduction is well-regulated, and that the care of surrogates and others is not left to the open market.”

April 13, 2018What Should be Done about Canada’s Assisted Reproduction Laws? By Alison Motluk. The Globe and Mail.

“So far, the discussion has mostly centred on the difficulties faced by people building their families. Much less has been said about the people who will be asked to help – or the people who will be created.
I’m no fan of the 2004 law as we’ve experienced it. But it seems to me that the best parts of the law never came to fruition. There were supposed to be regulations for surrogacy, egg donation and sperm donation. That never happened.
There was supposed to be a national personal health registry, to identify the health and safety risks of assisted reproduction and to stay on top of ethical and human-rights concerns. Never happened. There was supposed to be an agency to enforce the law, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, but although an agency by that name briefly existed, it fell well short of all the hopes pinned to it before being quietly killed off.”

April 9, 2018 – Our Fertility Laws and Criminalize People Trying to Start a Family. It’s Time for an Overhaul. By MP Anthony Housefather and fertility lawyer and founder of Fertility Law Canada Sara Cohen. The National Post.

While the Private Member’s Bill would decriminalize these matters, health regulations should be developed, including ensuring that a donor registry is in place to track the number of times sperm and ova are used in our population and to track any health issues. Provinces could create a framework for compensation, including limits if the province believed such limit was appropriate.
Nobody in this country should fear jail time because they want to be a parent, or because they want to help someone build a family. That’s why we’re working to update our laws.

April 2, 2018 –  Paying surrogates, sperm and egg donors goes against Canadian values By Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy, Dalhousie University François Baylis and Assistant Professor, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan Alana Cattapan. The Conversation.

The governance of assisted human reproduction is too important to the future of Canadian families to be undermined by a private member’s bill calling for an open market in human reproduction.”

We will continue updating this list as more articles are published.