Proposed AHR scheme allows gamete donation from close family members

A few months ago, The Iona Institute submitted a document to the Oireachtas Committee on Health regarding the General Scheme of a Bill to regulate Artificial Human Reproduction (AHR).  It is co-written by Dr Joanna Rose, who is herself donor-conceived. Two weeks ago, The Irish Times reported our submission.

The report said our submission “claims” that the planned law may lead to women seeking sperm or eggs from their cousins and in-laws. Using the words “claims” made what we said stand outlandish. Had the reporter dug a little further she would have found that it is no claim and that it is already happening.

Donation of gametes by close family members is prohibited, according to the General Scheme of the Bill. But “close family member” is not as widely defined as it might be. The Scheme means a parent, son, daughter, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunt, uncle, nephew and niece.

But this list does not exclude other blood relations, for example first cousins, or relations by marriage, including brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. If the sperm of a brother-in-law was used, the “uncle” of the child would, in fact, be the biological father.

What we are drawing attention to is already happening.

A letter from the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists sent to members of the Oireachtas  (25 February 2015) says that in Ireland, gamete donation “occurs in a handful of cases usually involving family members [our italics] and friends.” This fact was referred to by Deputies Jerry Buttimer and Alan Shatter during debates about AHR.

In Britain, there was a high profile case in 2015 involving the TV presenter, Mary Portas. She and her female partner said they were expecting a baby. Portas’s partner conceived using a sperm donation from Portas’s brother, meaning he would be both the biological father and the ‘uncle’ of the child.

The proposed Scheme allows this kind of thing. It is already happening. We were not making a claim when we drew attention to the practice and it is not being debated.

See also our previous blog: