A fertility clinic in Canada has been charged with buying or attempting to buy sperm, eggs, and surrogacy services. These actions have been considered illegal in Canada for 9 years under assisted-reproduction legislation and the Criminal Code. Although surrogacy in itself is legal, it is considered unlawful to pay sperm donors, egg donors, or surrogate mothers other than for reasonable expenses. This is as is stated in the Assisted Human Reproduction Act of 2004 (AHA).
The clinic is now facing 27 charges due to the alleged actions. The clinic, Canadian Fertility Consultants, is run by Leia Picard. The clinic would charge a “fixed price” to parents to find a surrogate mother and sometimes to find an egg donor (among other services).
Picard was charged with 5 counts of buying/offering to buy sperm or eggs, 3 counts of buying/offering to buy surrogate services, and 3 counts of accepting money to arrange these services. She was also charged with 4 counts of forgery under the Criminal Code, 8 counts under the reproduction acts, and 4 more forgery counts under the reproduction act.
Two egg donors have come forward and admitted to being paid $5,000 for their donations. The money was meant to go towards expenses, however one of the women admits that the payment was exorbitant as she didn’t really have any costs. The other woman said that she used the money to get her through a tight financial spot. Both admissions seem to support the allegations that the payments made were beyond reasonable. One woman, however, came forward stating that she did not understand the charges as she only paid her surrogate based on receipts that were provided, indicating the services that were performed.
The case has caused a bit of a debate. On one hand you have those who believe that this legal action is necessary to protect human life. Executive director of the Infertility Network, Diane Allen is one of them. She is quoted as saying that “Some things, including human life, should just not be for sale. And it is not odd that many people feel this way. In a famous case, U.S. attorney Hilary Neiman was sentenced for her involvement in a “baby-selling scandal in which surrogate babies were auctioned off for upwards of $150,000.
However, others feel as though the charges are not wholly fair; they feel that Picard is being used as a scapegoat while other people are doing the same thing. Those who actually practice careers in the fertility consultancy business are dismayed. They are fearful about the effects that this ruling will have on the industry as a whole. They are concerned that if legislation cracks down on them that intended parents and surrogates will be left to the mercy of services such as Craigslist, which will open them up to being exploited and experiencing emotional turmoil.
In the meantime, American citizens are still able to come to Canada to donate eggs and receive about $8,000 for their donations. Something that is legally acceptable through a loophole, although it is not something afforded to Canadians. Many people feel as though reasonable compensation for egg/sperm donors and surrogates should be allowed, much as it is in the United States.
Where do you stand on the debate?