OTTAWA — A Liberal backbencher has tabled a private member’s bill in the Commons aimed at easing some of the concerns of surrogate mothers or people who help them.

The proposed legislation amends the current Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which Montreal-area MP Anthony Housefather said is not working.

“It does not work for donors, surrogates, intended parents, children born of donation, or those who seek to assist them such as doctors, attorneys and agencies,” he told a news conference Tuesday.

Housefather said there are currently criminal prohibitions for the purchase of sperm or ovum, while that is not the case for any other bodily materials or organs which are all regulated by provincial law.

The Liberal MP said women have the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies and criminal law should not prevent them from seeking a child.

“Today, our law can send someone to prison for up to 10 years for wanting to help someone have a child and doing it in a wrong way,” Housefather said. “This is on par with some terrorism offences and makes no sense.”

Housefather said provisions in Bill C-404, which would amend the existing act, provide assurances a woman cannot be forced or encouraged to become a surrogate mother.

The act would be amended to decriminalize payment for sperm or ovum donation and for surrogacy.

Housefather’s amendment, subject to Sec. 9 of the act, specifies “a sperm or ovum donor must be at least 18 years of age, must have the capacity to consent to the donation and must not be coerced into donating.”

Sec. 9 prohibits any person from obtaining sperm or ova from a donor under 18, or using it, except for the purpose of preserving it for the minor’s own future reproductive use.

Another proposed amendment states that “a surrogate mother must be at least 21 years of age, must have the capacity to consent to becoming a surrogate mother and must not be coerced into becoming a surrogate mother.”

Another change would “allow for the purchase of other human reproductive material.”

Housefather said a group of eight Liberal MPs have already begun working to promote his proposed legislative measure, but he does not know when it will be debated in the Commons.

The government website says it’s estimated that up to one in eight Canadian couples experiences infertility.

It adds that Canadians experiencing infertility as well as single parents and same-sex couples are increasingly turning to assisted human reproduction procedures to help build their families.


Melanie Marquis, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press