Assisted Reproductive Technologies

More Controversy Over Britain's Donor Anonymity Law

June 27, 2008

The number of treatments with donor sperm has dropped to record lows since Britain banned donor anonymity in 2005, reports the London Daily Mail:

The first official figures since the Government removed anonymity from donors in 2005 show that the number of women treated with donated sperm fell by about 20 per cent from 2,727 in 2005 to 2,107 in 2006.

The number of donor insemination treatment cycles fell by 30 per cent over the same period.

The amount of women offering to donate eggs has also shrunk dramatically.

The article also provides some helpful data on the surpising (albeit small) increase in the number of donors after the 2005 law took effect. The government and donor-conceived activists had pointed to the rise as evidence that anonymity would not hurt the industry. But, it turns out, most of those new donors are 'known donors,' who are looking only to help a friend or relative:

The figures show that the number of sperm donors rose slightly from 259 in 2005 to 307 in 2006.

But that rise is largely down to an increase in the numbers of 'known donors' - friends and relatives that donate for a couple's exclusive use.

Fewer donors are contributing to sperm banks, from which the donation can be used by up to ten women.

That means that although more donors have registered, the shortage of sperm is becoming more acute.

Ten years ago there were no waiting lists for sperm, but now most clinics have a wait of at least two years for sperm treatment, and a similar trend is affecting egg donation.

A year after the law changed on anonymity, two thirds of clinics said their waiting times for sperm treatment had lengthened.

As a result, many more couples are looking abroad for donor sperm. Naomi Anderson, a fertility patient in the U.K., turned to online purveyors in the U.S. after learning about the 1-2 year wait for a donor:

I found two reputable American sites,, and, and selected a couple of possible donors. But legislation that came into force at the end of January 2007 means that UK women – despite our national sperm drought – now find it almost impossible to import sperm. A licence must be sought from the HFEA, which among other conditions stipulates that the donor must "only [have] received reasonable expenses or reimbursement for loss of earnings'. This is often not the case with the most high profile foreign clinics. You must also argue convincingly why you believe your child should be fathered by someone from that country.

The first time round the application submitted by my clinic was turned down by the HFEA. But an appeal, in which I stressed my husband's North American background, was successful. Those, however, who have no connection with any other country, are caught in what seems to be a tussle between different people's rights.

posted by Cheryl Miller | 10:35 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Egg Donation, Reproductive Law, Sperm Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

More on the Canadian Registry

June 25, 2008

Today in the Globe & Mail, three professors are protesting a decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal to nullify parts of the federal Assisted Human Reproduction Act:

The children of assisted reproduction must be the clear priority because they are the most affected for the longest time. The wishes of many are clear: to know their genetic and gestational parents, the truth about their conception and all their parents' current medical status so that they can take preventative measures to protect their own health. Some adults say that, as long as children are well loved, their deliberate separation from all their parents doesn't matter. One child answered, "All the good intentions and love in the world won't change the definition of right and wrong. It won't change how the kids feel."

Children need adult protection. This is why we urge all levels of government to work together to regulate this field. From the perspective of a child of assisted reproduction, inaction is not just unhelpful, it is a dereliction of duty. As you read this, children are being created in Canadian clinics that no longer have regulatory oversight, or even clear legal obligations to make and preserve records that could enlighten people about their genetic and gestational parents' identities and what disease they are likely to inherit.

posted by Cheryl Miller | 11:08 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Reproductive Law, Sperm Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

A Human Right to Know Your Father?

June 23, 2008

Canada is working to create a national sperm donor registry, according to the London Free Press. For now, donors will be allowed to remain anonymous:

Sweden was the first country in 1986 to pass a law requiring donor information be collected and the identity provided to children. The U.K. passed a similar law in 2005.

Canada is now developing a national registry to collect health information on sperm donors. When it's operating, offspring will be able to contact the registry for non-identifying information. But identifying information won't be released without the donor's consent, Newton said. "Anonymity is still an option."

Rob maintains children should be able to know who their father is. "It's a human right to know where the hell you came from."

posted by Cheryl Miller | 10:35 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Sperm Donation

ART in the News

Solo "daddies," too posh to adopt?, and more

June 23, 2008

posted by Cheryl Miller | 9:22 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Surrogacy, Older Mothers/Fathers, Sperm Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

ART in the News

Million-dollar babies, embryo adoption, and more

June 16, 2008

posted by Cheryl Miller | 9:09 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Eugenics, Contemporary, Surrogacy, Egg Donation, Embryo Adoption, Frozen Embryos, Third-Party Reproduction

Do Donors Get Ties on Father's Day?

June 12, 2008


From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"I don't have a dad. I have a donor."--One boy to another - do donors get ties on Father's Day? - overheard in a kindergarten class by T.A. Francis

(H/T: Wesley Smith)
(Photo by Flickr user sciondriver [CC])

posted by Cheryl Miller | 8:43 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Sperm Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

Child-Free But Not By Choice

June 10, 2008

The New York Times has a story today about how to cope in a "fertile" world. It focuses on Pamela Tsigdinos, one of the bloggers who I interviewed for this piece. There's also a great feature, "The Voices of Infertility," which includes video clips of women (where are the men?) talking about their experiences. Take a look!

After her years of focusing on becoming pregnant, Mrs. Tsigdinos’s passion is now connecting with other women in her situation. She writes about the everyday things that remind her of her childlessness, but also of what she had to deal with along the way: how to know when to stop treatment, how to deal with prying friends and relatives, how to accept a life without the expected routine of children’s books, recitals and graduation ceremonies. The women and the few men who comment on her blog may not always agree with her choices, but they all sympathize and help her feel less alone.

UPDATE: In other news, blogger Matthew Miller has a new book out, Maybe Baby: Parenthood Is Only a Conception Away. You can read about it here and preorder it from Amazon here.

posted by Cheryl Miller | 8:11 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization

Is "Feminist Mom" an Oxymoron?

June 9, 2008Amy Richards - "Opting In"I have a review in yesterday's Washington Times about the latest report from the Mommy Wars, Amy Richards's Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself. In the review, I ask whether the term "feminist mom" is an oxymoron and look at the complicated relationship between feminism and the biological clock:

Welcome to the Land of the Park Slope Stroller Mom, where every compliment is a veiled insult, and every choice no matter how mundane or personal - home birth vs. hospital, disposable vs. cloth diapers - is taken as a declaration of your progressive bona fides (or lack thereof). If you're not run down by a passing Bugaboo stroller, you'll likely soon be by the nonstop passive-aggressive sniping of the other mothers. "You let Baby Bjorn have non-organic carrot sticks? What kind of monster are you?"

posted by Cheryl Miller | 9:00 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, ART in popular culture

ART in the News

Cloning the dead, three-parent embryos, and more

June 9, 2008

posted by Cheryl Miller | 8:16 am
File As: Stem Cell Research, Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization

Reform for the Gamete Donor Industry?

June 2, 2008

"I think too often we've seen our job as simply to help someone achieve a pregnancy rather than looking at what happens to the child, the welfare of the child, what are the needs of the child. Those are issues we haven't addressed properly."

— Dr. Charles Sims, the medical director of California Cryobank

A fascinating podcast by "choice mom" Mikki Morrissette about the gamete donor registry proposed last March by three leading sperm banks. I've been working on a piece for Reason about the registry and the possibility of self-regulation. Dr. Sims (whom I interviewed) touches on several of the themes I discuss in the article. Well worth a listen!

posted by Cheryl Miller | 3:53 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Egg Donation, Sperm Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

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