Egg donation is a relatively new concept, and the legal structure surrounding egg donation varies widely across the US and globally. Unlike most of Europe, US policy does not require infertility clinics to be licensed by law, and no uniform standards exist about proper methods for egg donor recruitment, care, and disclosure. There is no US federal law regarding anonymity vs. disclosure in gamete donation, which has resulted in each state having its own regulation, if anything at all.
So what does the law say about anonymous donation?
For a long time, anonymity was the status quo, and people conceived through anonymous egg or sperm donation did not have a way to find out more about their genetic origins. But the use of at-home DNA and social media, along with advocacy from donor conceived people, has radically changed this.
In this guide, we summarize some of the legislations that are driving egg donor anonymity into the past.
Colorado has the most progressive laws towards donor-conceived persons rights. In June 2022, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed legislation banning anonymous sperm and egg donations, making the state the first in the country to prohibit the practice.
This law requires sperm and egg banks to maintain up-to-date medical records and contact information for all donors. The law raises the minimum donation age to 21, prohibits donations from donors who refuse to agree to identity disclosures, and limits the number of families that can use eggs from any given donor.
Once the law takes effect in 2025, donor-conceived adults will have the legal right to request information about their donor's identity and medical history. Future donors must agree that their information will be released to offspring that request them after the age of 18. This effectively eliminates any anonymity in the donation process.
A number of states, including California, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Washington have enacted the 2020 Uniform Parentage Act. Section 702 of the Act protects families by ensuring that the donor is not the legal parent of the child. This act, while extremely progressive, does not go as far as mandating that future donors MUST agree to information being released.
In 2011, Washington State was the first to challenge sperm and egg donor anonymity with a law that requires sperm banks and egg donation agencies with gametes from Washington State to provide the donor’s medical histories and, importantly, full names to donor-conceived persons upon turning 18 years of age. This has one major caveat - the agencies and banks are only required to provide the information if the gamete donor did not affirmatively opt out of being identified.
California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island
In 2020, California and Rhode Island followed Washington’s path, with a similar law that requires egg and sperm banks and donor programs to collect and retain a donor’s full name, date of birth, and address.
However, the law has one more provision friendly to the donor-conceived community - even if the donor did opt out of having his or her identity revealed, upon the request of a donor-conceived person, the gamete bank has an affirmative duty to notify the donor as to the request, and allow that donor another chance with withdraw the declaration. The new law goes on to provide that regardless of whether the donor signed a waiver, the donor-conceived person or, prior to the age of 18, his or her parents, shall have a right to the donor’s non-identifying medical information.
Connecticut enacted the same laws in 2022, expanding rights for donor-conceived persons.
A pending measure in New York would require gamete donor banks “to collect and verify medical, educational and criminal felony conviction history information” from any donor. This would also provide prospective parents who purchase eggs or sperm and donor-conceived people with the right to obtain such information without personally identifying the donor.
Other US states
There are currently no other states with legislation passed or pending on the regulation of gamete donations.
In Canada, egg and sperm donors cannot be paid; their donation must be altruistic. Both anonymous donation and known donation are permitted.
In Mexico, organ and cell donation, including egg donation, is required to be done anonymously.
In Mexico, though there is no specific law governing assisted reproductive technologies, donations are governed by some agreements implemented by national organizations such as the Mexican Association of Reproductive Medicine. The practice of ART is also considered, although not explicitly, in the General Health Law. Organ, cell and egg donation is required to be done anonymously.
In Europe, it has been suggested that anonymous gamete donation may breach the rights of donor-conceived persons under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHRs). However, this has never been definitively addressed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHRs). This has led to considerable divergence in regulatory approaches to anonymous donation across Europe.
Donor eggs for IVF are not allowed by law in Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Tunisia, or Turkey.
Sweden was the first country to prohibit anonymous donation, which it did in 1984. Identifiable donors are required. And while the donor remains anonymous to the family, the donor offspring have the right to receive information about the donor at the age of 18.
One Swedish study of 210 donors asked their thoughts five to eight years after their donation. The results show that a majority of egg and sperm donors had a positive attitude to the idea of being contacted by their offspring, while very few reported that they would prefer not to be contacted.
In the UK, the transition from anonymity protection to anonymity prohibition was partially driven by activism on the part of donor-conceived people, prompting a change in UK law in 2005, as a result of which anonymous donation was no longer permitted. Children born from egg donation receive the donor’s information upon turning 18, and it’s up to the donor whether to reply or not.
Additionally, it's illegal to pay for egg donation in the UK. Egg donors can receive compensation of up to £750 per donation 'cycle' to cover their costs.
Ireland did not regulate anonymous donation at all until 2015, but The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 prohibits anonymous donation entirely, and goes so far as to require the State to inform the donor-conceived person that they are donor-conceived, if they seek a birth certificate when over the age of 18. Ireland also proposes to extend this right to the right to know one’s gestational surrogate.
Spain guarantees donor anonymity, regulated by a 2006 law. Breaking the confidentiality conditions of the egg donor’s personal details are considered a serious offense, which can lead to significant monetary fines. Donor conceived people have the right to obtain general information about donors, but not their identities.
In 2018, Portugal banned anonymous egg donation, and donor-conceived people can now request personal information from the donor. CNMPA (National Council for Medically Assisted Procreation) has required clinics to suspend any IVF treatments with anonymous donors and begin registering everything in the national ART authority database. Egg donors can donate four times per lifetime and donor compensation in Portugal is fixed by law at 878€.
Donor anonymity had been established in France since the passage of its first law on assisted reproduction in 1994. In 2022, a new french bioethics law, established that children born as a result of medical procreation will have the right, if they wish, to know the identities of the donors who made their lives possible.The information about donors – including details of their family and professional situation – will be recorded at the time of the donation, along with a description of their "general state" and physical characteristics. Once the child reaches adulthood, he or she will have access to the information.
Egg donation in Greece is generally anonymous, and the clinics facilitate matching donors and families. Strict regulations prevent clinics from sharing any personal information about donors to patients.
In Hungary, an egg donor must be a relative of the infertile couple, meaning that they are not anonymous.
In China, the use of donor gametes is restricted to donor sperm, though donor eggs can be used if they are unused leftover eggs from women who underwent IVF. However, no compensation can be provided. While there’s no legislation around anonymity, most of the cases are anonymous.
The commercial market of donor eggs is prohibited by healthcare regulations in Singapore, with strict laws restricting monetary payment of egg donors.
However, the recent Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations permits medical and non-medical elective egg and sperm freezing from 2023. A policy decision, still under consideration by the Singapore government, which could have implications for donor-conceived offspring, is the possible establishment of an adoption register to facilitate contact between adopted children and their birth parents in the future.
The Diet passed a law in 2020 that recognizes married heterosexual couples who have children through donor eggs as legal parents (however, this right doesn’t apply to Japan’s LGBTQ+ families). And it does not give children the right to seek disclosure of the identities of the egg donors, an omission that has been met with criticism from groups representing them.
The buying and selling of donor eggs is banned in South Korea. Further, IVF treatments are not an option for unmarried women in Korea, and sperm banks set their own criteria for accepting patients and will not provide services to unmarried women. While single South Korean women are able to freeze their eggs, they can't legally proceed with a sperm donation and the transfer of an embryo unless married.
Egg donation in Lebanon has become a popular option in recent years, and egg donors can be known (friends or relatives) or anonymous.
Even though Turkey has more IVF clinics than any other nation in the Middle East, all forms of third-party reproduction are illegal, including egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donation, and surrogacy. In 2010, Turkey banned its citizens from going abroad to seek donor eggs, making it the first country in the world to regulate 'cross-border reproductive care'.
In 2010, The Israeli Knesset approved a bill regulating egg and sperm donations, fixing payment for donors. Compensation for egg donors would be higher than that for sperm donors, as ova harvesting requires patients to undergo hormone treatment. The law designates that the egg donation must be anonymous. A genetic database will allow individuals over the age of 18 to check whether they were conceived through third-party reproduction, without exposing the identity of the egg donor.
The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill passed in 2020 in India. Egg donors must be married with a child who is at least three years old. A donor can donate eggs only once in her life and not more than seven eggs can be retrieved. Also in India, no donation from the friends or relatives of either partner is allowed. Non identifying information about the donor is customarily provided to the donor-conceived offspring.
This bill requires clinics to maintain records of all donations for at least 10 years, after which the records must be transferred to the National Registry. However, the law seems ambiguous - and Bill does not specify the purpose of collecting personal information and sharing it with the Registry.
There is no legislation in Brazil regulating the assisted reproduction market, and the law has not kept up with the technological improvements and growing market. However, the Childrens Act (ECA) gives all children the right to know their genetic identity. The law includes adopted children and by extension, those conceived using genetic material donated by people who are not their legal parents. Although the Brazil Federal Council of Medicine states that sperm and egg donation must be anonymous, this does not prevent a child from filing a lawsuit demanding knowledge of their origin, as is their right according to the Brazilian Civil Code.
While egg and sperm donation is legal in Argentina, it is generally done anonymously. Physicians match families with donor eggs, and there is no database where parents could see the pictures or get information about the donors.
The state of Victoria, Australia introduced legislation to ban anonymous sperm and egg donation in 1998. In 2005, a national medical guideline stipulated the abolishment of anonymous donation in all states. In 2018, Victoria went even further to lift anonymity retroactively for donations made before 1998.
In New Zealand, The Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act 2004 legislated that all donations made on or after 22 August 2005 must be non-anonymous.
Disclosure is the future
The rising tide of disclosure is also playing out in legislative action around the globe, with the primary focus being on protecting donor-conceived persons’ interests to access crucial information that is relevant to their health and wellbeing. Practically, anonymity can no longer be guaranteed.
Trisha Mariwala is the Co-Founder of India-based Setu, a plant-based personalized nutrition brand focused on changing the supplement industry with high quality clinical products and round-the-clock coaching and habit building support. While at Setu, Mariwala has led marketing, branding and new product development functions. After attending Columbia Business School and interning with Cofertility, supporting various functions, Mariwala currently works with Danone Manifesto Ventures, supporting their mission of building the future of food.
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