Since 2006, the Pacific Centre of Reproductive Medicine (PCRM) has been providing the LGBTQ community with fertility services. Our physicians have also been active individually and within professional societies to make the practice of reproductive medicine more accessible for the LGBTQ community and all Canadians. Dr. Jeffrey Roberts is one such member of our team.
For over 10 years, Dr. Roberts has been a board member of the Canadian Professional Fertility Society and the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) for which he served as president from 2016 to 2017. As a multidisciplinary society, CFAS represents the experts in clinical and academic reproductive medicine in Canada.
The Assisted Human Reproduction Act
In October 2016, the Government of Canada requested public comment on the law that defines the practice of fertility in Canada, The Assisted Human Reproduction Act (2004). Several aspects of this law severely restrict the ability of LGBTQ patients to access both commercial and known donor sperm and eggs. Through his work on the CFAS board and Health Canada-sponsored CSA Expert Working Group on Safety of Organs and Tissues for Transplantation and Assisted Reproduction, Dr. Roberts has helped with making changes to the existing regulation of third-party reproduction that will greatly improve access to these technologies for the LGBTQ community. To improve access and reduce the need for commercial sperm, one of the recommendations from these discussions was for the removal of quarantining requirements for sperm from known donors.
The Government of Canada later published their key policy proposals as part of a public consultation with Canadians in the drafting of assisted human reproduction regulation: “toward a strengthened Assisted Human Reproduction Act”. This proposal was published in summer 2017. The document represents a major landmark for the LGBTQ patient and proposes a system for the medical and infectious disease screening of gamete donors that should protect the safety and rights of all involved. We were pleased to see that patient access to known donors is addressed in the proposed regulation.
Compensation of Third Party Reproduction and Right to Family
Public consultation is important for the drafting of regulation under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. It also opens the Act itself for discussion of the legislation, specifically changes to the prohibition of the compensation of surrogates and gamete donors (sections 6 and 7). Many feel that the law has greatly limited access to fertility services within Canada, and dramatically pushed costs beyond reach for most patients.
This year, CFAS published the position statements “Compensation of Third Party Reproduction” and “Right to Family”, the latter authored by Dr. Roberts. Both documents highlight the fact that a lack of “adequate” compensation of donors and surrogates restricts access to critical fertility services, and thus a citizen’s right to reproduce. There appears to be broad support for decriminalization of the Act. We are hoping that changes to fertility laws and regulation will improve assess to safe and effective care for all Canadians, with notable changes for the LGBTQ patient.
Recently, Dr. Jon Havelock, our director of third-party reproduction at PCRM, authored the “CFAS Guidelines on Third Party Reproduction”, which provides an extensive overview of the clinical and legal requirements for the performing of gamete donation and gestational surrogacy in Canada. This document helps Canadian practitioners navigate the often-confusing screening process for a wide array of clinical scenarios encountered with these treatments.
For more information, you may read the “CFAS Position Statement: Right to Family” here.