In Canada, it is illegal to pay a woman for her eggs; it is not illegal, however, for a woman to sell her eggs. That is, in Canada the buying is illegal; the selling is not.
Anthony Housefather, Liberal member of Parliament for Mount Royal, wants to change this. He wants to remove the prohibition on payment so as to facilitate the introduction of a commercial market in human reproduction. A commercial market would benefit fertility doctors, lawyers and brokers by increasing their profits. It would also benefit some intended parents who cannot access women’s bodies without payment.
A private member’s bill has been tabled, with the goal of decriminalizing the act of paying surrogates in Canada. The legal patchwork surrounding the issue is grey. Abigail Bimman explains how the system works now, and why there’s opposition to the change.
With beaming smiles and giddy excitement, Mike Black and Travis Wood show off an ultrasound photo of their nine-week-old, unborn baby.
“I’ve been dreaming every night it’s a baby boy,” Black told Global New earlier this week.
Getting the photo required a 4,000-kilometre trip from Slave Lake, Alta., to Ottawa, where the couple’s surrogate lives and was getting an ultrasound. It’s an experience Black describes as “life-changing.”
A new private member’s bill aims to remove the prospect of criminal charges for those who pay for and receive donated sperm and eggs, as well as surrogacy services.
Anthony Housefather, a Liberal MP representing the Montreal riding of Mount Royal, tabled the bill Tuesday, saying “criminalization is meant to eradicate societal evils. The desire to have a child or to help someone have a child is not evil.”
He said the criminal law should be changed and it should be left up to the provinces to regulate assisted human reproduction services. Provinces could choose to continue to prohibit compensation beyond expenses, set a cap on payouts, or leave it up to the free market, he said
During the Star’s Made in Canada series, which looks at this country’s booming international surrogacy industry, the Crabbs and their Canadian surrogate, Paula Capa, a teacher in Kitchener, struggled to become parents.
“Obviously we’ve been waiting forever for this,” David says. “And now we’ve got one beautiful little angel sent from heaven.”
Imagine finding out that your father isn’t really your biological parent. That’s the reality more than two dozen people have struggled with because of alleged mismatched sperm donations at the Ottawa fertility clinic once run by Dr. Norman Barwin.
The parents of these people went to Barwin for treatments to help them conceive using the male partner’s sperm. Instead, Barwin himself is thought to have provided the sperm that led to 11 pregnancies – without the couples in question knowing this. In another 16 cases, the family can’t identify the sperm donor at all.
When Selina Robinson agreed in 1999 to carry a friend’s baby, doctors did not do surrogacies in B.C. so she travelled to Calgary to have the embryos implanted. Today, surrogacies are far more common, thanks to an increase in demand from same-sex couples and infertile women. As a result, a debate is raging about whether Canada should change its laws to allow surrogates, as well as egg and sperm donors, to be paid, as they are in the U.S.
The Canadian Surrogacy Community wants Ottawa to decriminalize the act of paying surrogates to carry other people’s babies – and they recently hired a lobbyist to help them achieve that goal.
The surrogacy agency recruited Lisa Jibson, founder and chief administrative officer of Ross Street Agency, to push government officials to repeal section six of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act – which says it’s illegal for an intended parent or couple in Canada to compensate a woman for carrying a baby on their behalf.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s time for society to study the issue of decriminalizing payment for surrogate mothers and sperm or egg donors. (Radio-Canada)
“I think this is something we need to be thinking about as a society, and when we see the bill I know we will be having a discussion about rights and responsibilities that we share as a society,” Trudeau said. “And we will try to see how we can move forward in a reasonable manner.”
Trudeau was referencing a planned private member’s bill being put forward by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather. The bill, which Housefather plans to table in May, would decriminalize payments for surrogate moms and sperm or egg donors.
Canadians from every demographic and economic group could require a surrogate and/or gamete donor to build their family. Every Canadian should have the right and ability to have a family without fear of legal prosecution. This means that just to give one example, to even send flowers to a surrogate could expose intended parents (IPs) and agency staff to criminal liability and penalties. Expenses meant to cover costs directly related to the pregnancy are a grey area, and currently, any perceived breach could result in the conviction of an indictable offense with a fine of up to $500,000, a jail sentence of up to 10 years, or both.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s time for Canadian society to wrestle with the controversial issue of paying women to carry other people’s babies.
Calling paid surrogacy an “extremely important issue” that affects many prospective parents, including same-sex and infertile couples, Trudeau said today he expects the debate will draw extreme opinions and emotions.
The government, he said, wants to listen and show respect for all views to “move forward appropriately.”
“I think this is something we need to be thinking about as a society, and when we see the bill I know we will be having a discussion about rights and responsibilities that we share as a society,” he said. “And we will try to see how we can move forward in a reasonable manner.”
In Canada, it’s illegal to pay for the services of a surrogate mother or to purchase human gametes — sperm and eggs. These prohibitions are entrenched in the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Some Liberal members of Parliament want to change this.
Anthony Housefather, MP for Mount Royal and chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, recently held a news conference to announce that he plans to introduce a private member’s bill to remove the legal prohibitions on payments.
Infertility sucks. If you haven’t lived through it, or experienced it vicariously through a friend, it’s hard to explain why it is soul-crushingly awful.
Before I was thrust into the dark underworld of nightly hormone injections, invasive vaginal ultrasounds and regular blood tests revealing to me just how crappy my eggs are, I was able to brush it off like most people.
“Why is she so upset about her miscarriage? She can just try again. It’s not as if a real baby was in there.” And, “Why would they spend that much money on in vitro fertilization when they can just adopt?”