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Government Moves To Ban Paid Surrogate Motherhood, Sale of Sperm

June 14, 1996

TORONTO (AP) _ The federal government introduced sweeping legislation Friday to ban pay-for-pregnancy procedures, including paid surrogate motherhood and sale of eggs, sperm and embryos.

The bill to regulate the use of technology in reproduction would also outlaw sex selection of babies in virtually all cases.

``We are acting today to set boundaries on the use of new reproductive technologies,″ Health Minister David Dingwall said in a statement accompanying the bill.

The Liberal Party government’s large majority in Parliament makes passage of the bill a near-certainty. The law would make Canada one of a handful of countries with such tough rules.

In the United States, most states have allowed reproductive technologies to advance with few hindrances.

Maximum penalties in the Canadian bill are a fine of $365,000 and a 10-year prison term.

The government said the banned procedures pose serious risks to human health and safety.

``They include practices that commercialize reproduction and are contrary to the principles of human dignity, respect for life and protection of the vulnerable,″ the Health Department said.

The legislation follows years of debate and study, including a 1993 report by a government commission which urged firm limits on scientific advances related to human reproduction.

``We’re saying something as a country about how important we think human beings are,″ said Suzanne Scorsone, who served on the commission.

``We can’t be reduced to objects for sale,″ she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

The government acted because doctors and clinics failed last year to heed a voluntary moratorium on the techniques which would be covered under the ban.

The bill would prohibit 13 uses of new reproductive and genetic technologies. Among them:

_Cloning of human embryos.

_Creation of animal-human hybrids.

_Transfer of embryos between human and other species.

_Use of human sperm, eggs or embryos for assisted human reproduction procedures or for medical research without the donor’s consent.

_The creation of human embryos for research.

Dr. Sam Batarseh, whose Toronto clinic has been involved in surrogate motherhood and other targeted procedures, said the government was exaggerating the commercial aspect of the field.

``It’s not the big business that they’re making it sound,″ he said, noting that sperm donors often were paid roughly $35.

He said the number of sperm donors would certainly drop if payments were outlawed, reducing the selection available and perhaps forcing some patients to turn to U.S. markets.

``We tell gays and lesbians, no one can stop you from having children,″ Batarseh said. ``Now we say, `Guess what? You have to go the States to do it.‴

Batarseh said there was no argument that the field should be regulated. But he complained that the bill wrongly lumped together widely accepted practices _ such as sperm donation for small fees _ with controversial new procedures that are almost unknown in Canada.

The government also plans to issue regulations for in vitro fertilization, donor insemination, the use of fetal tissue, embryo research and the storage and donation of human eggs, sperm and embryos.

``It will reflect how Canadians look at each other as human beings,″ said geneticist Patricia Baird, who headed the government commission.

``I think Canadians are caring enough that they will want to see some limits to prevent harm and exploitation.″