Anonymous sperm and eggs to be banned by autumn

Act updates family law on the needs of children in ‘diverse family types’

Anonymous sperm and egg donation in fertility treatment is set to be banned by next autumn on foot of revised legislation due to be introduced shortly, Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed.

Provision for a ban and for the creation of a register to allow donor-conceived children obtain personal family information once they turn 18 was contained in 2015 Children and Family Relationships Act. But the minister at the time did not commence enactment of parts two and three of the legislation which would have brought the measures into force immediately.

The Act updates family law on the needs of children “living in diverse family types” and allows for parentage through donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR).

"During the preparation of regulations to facilitate the commencement of parts two and three of the Act, a number of technical drafting issues came to light that required amendments to the Act of 2015 through primary legislation," a Department of Health spokesman said.



Mr Harris received Government approval last week to draft an amendment to the Bill to remedy the defect. The Minister “hopes to be in a position to introduce this legislation into the Dáil as soon as possible and commence parts two and three of the Children and Family Relationships Act in the autumn”.

The department was responding to the announcement this week by international clinic Institut Marquès that it was offering women undergoing IVF in Ireland the use of anonymously donated eggs without having to travel abroad. An order to commence enactment of the Act, once approved by the Oireachtas, would prohibit such practice.

The Act contains provisions relating to the consent of all parties to DAHR procedures, the parentage of donor-conceived children and retrospective declarations of parentage for donor-conceived children born prior to commencement of parts two and three of the Act.

It also spells out the rights of donor-conceived people to access information about their genetic heritage by the establishment of a national donor-conceived person register, and addresses the use of non-anonymous gametes (sperm and eggs) and embryos in DAHR procedures, Mr Harris said.

Regulate procedures

A related piece of legislation, the 2017 Assisted Reproduction Bill, is currently before the Oireachtas. When adopted it would regulate a range of DAHR procedures carried out in the State and provide for an independent regulatory authority.

The Irish Fertility Society, which represents clinics, consultants and scientists working in the sector, has expressed strong opposition to both pieces of legislation. It claimed women using fertility treatment to get pregnant would be driven abroad or into "private arrangements with men on the internet" as a consequence.

Other “unintended consequences” would be a rise in women buying sperm from foreign donor banks and using it in their homes without medical supervision and a substantial risk of sexually transmitted diseases from “random donors with questionable motivations”, it said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times