[guest post by Dana]
A private fertility clinic in Calgary has caused a commotion with their policy that refuses to use sperm, eggs or embryos from donors who do not match their client’s ethnic background.
A single, 38-year old, white female named Catherine had specific reasons for seeking a non-caucasian donor:
By the time she narrowed down her pool of potential donors to those who met Canadian standards, had a good health history and a compatible blood type, she was left with only 20 or so Caucasian candidates to choose from. Many of them had already been used by several other patients in Calgary.
“Frankly, it’s appalling how many people have the same donors, probably because of this policy,” she said. “A friend of mine just went through this process and used the donor that I would have picked.”
Looking at other ethnicities significantly increased her options. While many people do want children who will look like them, she said she is less concerned with the colour of her potential child’s skin than the demeanour, personality and health history it might inherit from its biological father.
For their part, the clinic’s administrative director Dr. Calvin Greene expressed concern for “rainbow families”:
“I’m not sure that we should be creating rainbow families just because some single woman decides that that’s what she wants,” he said. “That’s her prerogative, but that’s not her prerogative in our clinic.”
Greene said doctors at the clinic feel “a child of an ethnic background should have the ability to be able to identify with their ethnic roots.” He added patients should have a “cultural connection” to their donors.
Greene was adamant the rule follows the spirit of Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which demands doctors place priority on the well-being of potential children and refrain from producing “designer” babies.
The Alberta Human Rights Commission ruled in favor of the policy when it was challenged by a non-infertile white couple who requested a non-caucasian donor, finding that since they were not infertile and there was no cultural relationship to a non-caucasian donor, the policy would be upheld.
Also, it should be noted that according to Greene:
[I]nterracial couples treated at the clinic have the option of using donors that are ethnically similar to either one of the partners.”
He observed that most clients want their children to resemble them.
The clinic’s policy reflects similar guidelines used with “in-province” adoption and foster care – that is, every effort is made to place children with families of the same cultural background.
Further, when and if the clinic’s policy compels women to seek another clinic, it can get complicated:
[T]he Regional Fertility Program is the only fertility clinic in Calgary, so patients must go to Edmonton, Saskatoon, Vancouver or beyond if they don’t agree with its policy. Women receiving fertility treatment often need daily or very frequent treatments for a matter of months.
Is the denial to “Catherine”, and others making similar requests, fulfilling the mandate to give priority to the well-being of potential children and refrain from producing “designer” babies or is it an antiquated carryover from a non-post-racial world?
(As an aside, it’s interesting to note that a single woman seeking a sperm donor doesn’t even raise a brow in today’s modern world. Even making the observation may be viewed as antiquated.)
UPDATE: The clinic claims the policy had been reversed a year ago:
The clinic’s spokeswoman, Paula Arab, said in a statement that the Regional Fertility Program had failed to update its website sooner due to an “oversight.”
“Since changing our policy last year, the clinic has treated numerous patients who have requested donors of different ethnicity.”