Surrogacy: For Cash Or Compassion?

A complicated and sensitive debate over surrogacy, egg donation, and sperm donation arrangements in Canada is ongoing. 

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At present, commercial surrogacy and gamete (sperm) donation is prohibited and is based on good intentioned people helping those struggling with fertility issues. Many argue that it is perfectly reasonable and proper for people to be paid for surrogacy or sperm donation, and that the law should be changed.  Currently, harsh fines and prison sentences are in place for people who engage in commercialized surrogacy or sperm donation activity. On the other hand, there are those who feel that legalized commercialization would essentially kick off trade in human body parts and tissues and that this goes against the most basic of Canadian values.

In the United States, surrogacy is fully commercialized, and services are in high demand. According to Sensible Surrogacy, a Nevada based surrogacy provider, a traditional surrogacy program can cost up to $140,000.00 USD. These costs include fees, permits, transportation costs, medication, and so on. This market system opens more options for people who want to have children, but also has the potential for putting surrogacy services out of reach for families. Because commercialization is the norm in the United States, the pool of available surrogates is far larger than it is in Canada, according to media reports.

Experts on the anti-commercialization side are aware of the potential for affordability becoming a problem but are more concerned about the long-term implications for the safety of women and children. International media has repeatedly reported on surrogacy scandals in south and south-east Asia. An investigation by Hong Kong based South China Morning Post outlined that Thailand and India were among a few countries that cracked down on surrogacy programs following high profile 2014 cases involving foreigners. Poorer women are especially vulnerable, especially where surrogates are poorly paid. Many do not want similar outcomes in Canada. 

On the issue of sperm donation, controversies can occur where a Donor does not disclose health issues and donates to a woman without her knowledge. A Toronto Star article from April 2016 outlined a case where a woman received a Facebook message from another woman who used the same Donor.  Their sperm Donor had schizophrenia, despite everything indicating perfect health prior to the insemination.  These issues could have been avoided if they entered into a Donor Agreement.  The Donor Agreement could have required the Donor to provide his medical records and/or undergo medical and mental health testing to ensure that there were no relevant health issues prior to insemination.