New South Wales, Australia
This is a transcript from The World Today. The program is broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio.
The World Today - Wednesday, 28 November , 2007 12:48:00
Reporter: Michael Edwards
Reporter: Michael Edwards
ELEANOR HALL: Gay rights groups and medical ethicists have warned that proposed New South Wales laws on reproductive donors are discriminatory. The New South Wales Government is planning to give sperm and egg donors the right to choose who will receive their genetic material. It has the backing of religious groups and says the change is in the best interests of any resulting children. But opponents say it will give donors the ability to discriminate against single mothers, gay couples, and ethnic and religious groups.Michael Edwards has our report.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill is presently before the New South Wales Upper House and if passed, it will have wide ranging ramifications for the way sperm, egg, and embryo donations are conducted.The bill contains changes, which will require donors to register their names, enabling children to make contact with them once they are 18. It will also mean women who receive donations can have a say on the background of the donor.But one of the most contentious aspects of the legislation is that donors will have the right to choose who they donate to. The New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma says this is a sensible change, which is in the best interests of children.
MORRIS IEMMA: The last thing you want, a child who grows up and wants to track their donor, their genetic father, their genetic parent, and then to discover that the genetic parent has got some objection to the child being in existence, to … some objection to their cultural, religious or some other aspect of their background.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: But opponents of this aspect of the bill are lining up to voice their criticism. Dr Leslie Cannold is a medical ethicist, and she says it will give legal status to discrimination.
LESLIE CANNOLD: My understanding is how this bill is going to operate is that a donor can say, look I only want my gametes or my embryos to go to a Christian family. I don't want it to go to a Muslim or a Jewish or a Muslim family. I don't want it to go to a gay or a lesbian couple or a single mother, and of course that's not a particular person, that's away from a group who have a certain characteristic.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: Emily Gray is the convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. She says describes it as a form of social engineering.
EMILY GRAY: Under this legislation, it would be possible for a donor to direct that their sperm be … only go to a, for example, a white Christian married couple living on the North Shore, or a Muslim couple, or a Jewish couple, or indeed a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman. We believe that this is a dangerous road to go down. It's akin to social engineering.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: But the bill does have its supporters. Among them is Leonie Hewitt from the Donor Conception Support Group.
LEONIE HEWITT: As in, you know, the rights of the child will need to be paramount, and if donors … donors must be able to choose where their gametes go, because what happens in, you know, 10 to 15 years, 18 years time, and the donors find that their gametes have gone to people that they don't feel comfortable with.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: And Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby says the issue is not about race or religion but about the child born as a result of the donation.
JIM WALLACE: If the child is that person's progeny, if it's more likely - given the law - that that person is going to have contact with the child in the future because they'll be known to the child. If perhaps even later we might find that he has liability for the child, then he must have some say over the circumstances in which that child is going to grow up.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: However, medical ethicist, Leslie Cannold, remains unconvinced with these arguments. She says it's her understanding that it's illegal to discriminate in other aspects of life based on religious, racial or sexual grounds.
LESLIE CANNOLD: And yet this seems to be saying that certain people in certain circumstances can do just that, they can point to a group of people and say, "No, I don't want them to have access to this", and this is something I think we'd all agree is very important, which is the capacity to have the chance of having a child.
ELEANOR HALL: That's medical ethicist, Dr Leslie Cannold, ending Michael Edwards' report.