Juliet Guichon is an assistant professor at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine; Barry Stevens is a filmmaker whose genetic father was an anonymous sperm donor; Diane Allen is co-founder of the Infertility Network of Toronto.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has vowed to update the province's definition of the word "parent" so that, for example, the lesbian partner of a mother does not have to adopt her child. Ms. Wynne said, "To all of the parents and advocates pushing for equal treatment of LGBTQ-plus families, I am committed to fixing this."
Is she also committed to equal treatment of their children?
When a child has two same-sex parents, there is obviously at least one more biological parent: the one who supplied the donated sperm or egg. The resulting children, called "offspring," ought to be able to know the identity and medical, social and cultural history of their progenitors, just as children of adoption do.
In a 2011 case, the British Columbia Supreme Court found that, "like adoptees, offspring need social, psychological and medical information about biological parents. Even if well intentioned, serious harm can be caused by cutting off a child from his or her biological roots."
The interests of offspring matter. After all, the federal Assisted Human Reproduction Act states that "the health and well-being of children born through the application of assisted human reproductive technologies must be given priority in all decisions respecting their use."
In other words, children's interests should not be second to those of adults. Children should come first.
Children would come first if donor anonymity were banned as it is in Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand, Germany and several Australian states.
How can it possibly be beneficial, psychologically or medically, to be deliberately deprived of knowing at least half of your genetic origin?
The psychological importance of family and kinship connections is well understood, and is evident in the growth of genealogy websites, DNA databases, and adoption and donor conception registers, which help people attempt to find others with whom they share a genetic connection.
Anonymity affects the medical interests of offspring. Because of the failure to disclose one half of their family medical history, offspring cannot benefit fully from early detection of disease, improved treatment and optimal health promotion with targeted prevention and screening strategies. This is discriminatory.
Some say offspring do not need to know the donor's identity, but some offspring clearly do, as evidenced in their media interviews, lobbying efforts, lawsuits, and DNA and online searches.
The lack of information can affect subsequent generations. An adult offspring wrote, "The ground that nearly everyone else has: a heritage, a connection with the past, a connection with kinfolk and my lineage. It is not something that is just missing from my own life; it is something that is now missing from my children's as well."
So when the Ontario Premier creates official documents that help same-sex parents, it is imperative that she also ensures that their children have documents that tell them the truth about their genetic origins. And instead of falsifying birth certificates, we should instead have two types of official records for everyone, irrespective of how they are conceived:
1. A legal parentage certificate, which would protect parents' legal rights and be used for routine matters such as obtaining a passport and registering for school and sport teams; and 2. A birth certificate listing genetic parents (including donors) and the person who gestated and gave birth to the child. That document would be available to people either at the age of majority or when they are able to make their own health decisions.
The genetic and gestational parents would have no legal status as the child's guardians and no financial obligations. But their identities and health information would be available to the adult offspring.
To ensure that vital statistics are accurate, Ontario should require fertility clinics here and abroad to create truthful records of gamete provision. To help children meet their birth parents, provincial governments should create mutual consent registries, just as occurs in adoption.
Ms. Wynne's desire to help same-sex parents is laudable. But she should first help their children. The desire for information about one's birth parents is ordinary; the deprivation of this information is extraordinary.