Why was the Donor Conceived Alliance of Canada (DCAC) created?
The Donor Conceived Alliance of Canada (DCAC) was created in May of 2018 after Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather (Mount Royal, Liberal) made his plans to propose Bill C-404 public. Mr. Housefather’s Bill, if passed, would have amended the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (2004) to decriminalize compensation for gamete donors and surrogates. No donor conceived people were consulted in the drafting of this Bill. Donor-conceived Canadians soon realized that, as with other policy discussions regarding third-party reproduction, we had been completely absent from the discourse. This was not because we were not interested in the evolution of policies governing third-party reproduction or the science informing the industry, but because there is a consistent effort to bar us from being recognized as meaningful stakeholders.
A group of donor-conceived Canadians formed the DCAC to ensure that donor-conceived Canadians are meaningfully represented in federal and provincial policy discussions regarding third-party reproduction and are viewed as stakeholders in regulatory consultations with governmental departments, such as Health Canada.
Do you advocate for a specific family structure? Are you opposed to LGBTQ families?
Absolutely not. The Donor Conceived Alliance of Canada (DCAC) acknowledges and respects diverse family structures and does not tolerate unjust or prejudicial treatment of any group. We advocate for inclusive policies and oppose those that stigmatize same-sex couples, single parents, and blended families. The DCAC does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, physical or mental ability, or marital status.
Several of our members are apart of the LGBTQ community, are single parents or in blended families, are in co-parenting arrangements, or were donors or recipient parents themselves.
We recognize that donor conception and surrogacy are fundamental parts of family-building in the LGBTQ community. We advocate for the use of known donors whenever possible (such as through directed donation programs in established fertility clinics), so that the DCP are able to have a connection to their donating biological parent (i.e. their parent’s donor) while growing up. Fostering relationships between half-siblings is also important for many DCP.
Are you against all forms of reproductive technology?
No. The Donor Conceived Alliance of Canada (DCAC) does not oppose all forms of reproductive technology. Reproductive technology is a term that encompasses a vast number of medications, procedures, treatments, and anticipated technologies. The fields of science, medicine, law, business, and bioethics that are committed to theorizing, researching, administering, and regulating reproductive technologies are complex and often contradictory. The DCAC acknowledges that many forms of reproductive technology have improved the lives of many and that others have yet to have their long-term effects comprehensively studied.
The DCAC, however, is primarily concerned with third-party reproduction and opposes policies and regulations that put the interests of donors and parents above the best interests of DCP.
How do you respond to those who claim that anonymity is an absolute right promised to gamete donors, or that if you abolish anonymity nobody will ever donate?
Under the law, anonymity is not an absolute right – it is a qualified right. This means that there are several instances wherein one’s anonymity is interfered with so long as the interference is not arbitrary and is lawful. Anonymity in gamete donation should not be permitted and promised at all. This is not only because anonymity is theoretically not an absolute right, but because in practice, it is simply impossible to guarantee thanks for consumer DNA testing (even if the donor him or herself does not submit their DNA for testing).
In Australia, a study showed that despite banning anonymous sperm donations country-wide in 2005, the number of sperm donors kept increasing steadily over the study period (2000 to 2012), showing the ban on anonymity did not reduce the number of donors. The total number of donors actually INCREASED by 42% in the year that anonymity was banned. (Full text of the study available here).
Similarly in the U.K., gamete donor anonymity has been banned since 2004. Critics of the rule change worried that banning anonymity would result in a significant decrease in gamete donation. A 2006 HEFA study, however, showed that between April and October 2004, 133 sperm donors were registered in the U.K, and after the ban on anonymity this number increased to 143. Another HFEA report from October 2019 indicated that between 2012 and 2017 the number of registered egg donors increased 10% and registered sperm donors increased by 9.6%.
Evidence suggests that the potential decline in gamete donation after banning anonymity can be addressed by an increase in clinic recruitment efforts, appealing to altruistic donation. Therefore, the notion that there will be a decrease in gamete donors after banning anonymity is not legitimate.
Sources: (1) Eric Blyth and Lucy Frith, “The U.K.’s Gamete Donor ‘Crisis’ – A Critical Analysis,” Critical Social Policy 28, no. 1 (2008). (2) Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Report: https://www.hfea.gov.uk/about-us/publications/research-and-data/
Which jurisdictions are doing better at protecting the rights and interests of donor-conceived people?
Many other countries and jurisdictions around the world have recognized the importance of reforming assisted human reproduction rules to protect the rights and interests of DCP. A summary of donor conception policies from around the world is provided by Australian researcher Sonia Allen at Health Law Central here. Highlights of her work include:
- Anonymous gamete donation has been BANNED in Austria (since 1992), Switzerland (1998), State of Victoria (Australia) (1998) Norway (2003), the Netherlands (2004), UK (2004), New Zealand (2004), Australia (remaining states, 2005), Finland (2006), Sweden (2006), Washington State – United States (2011), Croatia (2012), Germany (2015), Argentina (2014), and Portugal (2018). The trend is definitely towards banning anonymity in gamete donation over time and Canada must catch up.
- In contrast, anonymous gamete donation is still required by law (i.e. no open ID donors) in including Spain, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, and Poland (source: IVF Abroad Patient Guide 2022 edition); laws in these countries needs to change as soon as possible.
Children per donor
- Many jurisdictions in the world place limits on the number of donor conceived people that can be created per single donor (with Canada and the US being obvious and glaring exceptions).
- Limits range from as little as 3 children per donor (Hong Kong), to 25 people per population of 800,000 (Canada and the US) – which would translate to over 1,000 half-siblings from a single donor in Canada, and even more first cousins. Most countries have limits of around 10 to 25 children per donor, or around 10 families (with multiple siblings) per donor (e.g. UK, New Zealand).
What kinds of language should I use when talking about donor conception and about those born through this technology?
This list does not claim to reflect the opinions of all donor-conceived people everywhere. Donor-conceived people should be encouraged to use the language that is comfortable for them. The DCAC believes, however, that with respect to policy discussions language is important and the following should be kept in mind:
- Avoid calling adult donor-conceived people “babies” or “children” (e.g. referring to an adult DCP as a “donor conceived child” or “sperm donor baby”). This is unfortunately a common practice within the fertility industry and government, and it creates an image of DCP as dependents who aren’t able to participate in policy discussions. Instead, simply say donor-conceived (with or without the dash) people or adults. You may see the letters “DCP” on our website and others like it. It stands for “donor-conceived person/people.”
- Avoid saying that someone’s biological parent is “just” a donor and that donor-conceived individuals should not be curious about who their biological parents are. Some people are not curious about their genetic background, but many are. Every donor-conceived person places a different level of significance on the relationship they have or do not have with their biological parent(s). It is no one else’s place to dictate where the emphasis should be or how it should be articulated.
- Avoid labelling a DCP’s biological parent as their donor, unless that is the preferred wording by the DCP. “Donor” is a reference to the relationship between intended parents and gamete donors. It does not describe the relationship between gamete donors and their genetic children. Rather than referring to someone’s biological parent as “their sperm donor,” for example, simply refer to the person as the biological or genetic parent.
- Avoid saying that the biological or genetic parent is the “real” parent. Donor-conceived people are not a monolith. We come from diverse households. Some of us have heterosexual parents, some have single mothers, some have same-sex parents. Do not suggest that our legal parent(s) did not or do not play a significant role in our lives or that our search for our genetic relatives is a reflection of how we feel about our parents.
- Avoid the term “dibling” when referring to a donor-conceived person’s half-siblings. “Dibling” is short for “donor sibling”. Although it sounds cute, it can give the impression that the relationship between half-siblings is not a real sibling relationship. The nature of relationships between half-siblings is very personal and varied, but many DCP develop very close connections with half-siblings. In the 2020 We Are Donor Conceived survey almost half of respondents (of 500) said they hoped to develop a close friendship with their half-siblings, while 30% wanted to have a traditional sibling relationship. DCP often have dozens or even hundreds of half-siblings and that this can be a complex journey for us – emotionally and legally — especially because most of us were never meant to find one another. Be scientifically accurate and simply say half-siblings.