Bill to decriminalize payments for surrogacy, egg and sperm donors to be tabled next week

A bill to decriminalize the payment of surrogate mothers is set to be introduced in the House of Commons this week. Amanda Kopcic Photography

Details on how a Liberal MP wants the government to decriminalize payments for surrogacy and human reproductive material are set to be unveiled next week.

According to a listing posted on the House of Commons notice paper, Montreal MP Anthony Housefather will table An Act to amend the Assisted Human Reproduction Act on May 29 to try to decriminalize both the paying of surrogates in Canada as well as the ban on paying for sperm and egg donations.

Both are currently banned under Section 5 of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act and carry possible sentences of between four to 10 years imprisonment.

A maximum fine of between $250,000 and $500,000 can also be levied for the offences.

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“Canadian couples should not have to go to the United States and pay to have their baby,” said Housefather at a March press conference announcing the planned bill.

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“There’s no reason we should have to do that when we could do that at home.”

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Those known as intended parents — to whom a child carried via surrogate is intended to belong — can compensate a surrogate for costs incurred during her pregnancy as well as things like medical costs, maternity clothing and vitamins.

However, they cannot pay her for the service of actually carrying and delivering the child.

Because of that, advocates say the pool of surrogates in Canada remains comparatively smaller than the pool in the United States, where surrogates can generally be compensated in the range of $20,000 to $40,000.

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It is not yet clear whether the bill will include measures to regulate the costs of surrogacy.

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One other Liberal MP, Julie Dzerowicz, had stood with Housefather in support of his bill during the press conference and suggested regulating costs could be something the government could do to help ensure the service is attainable for Canadians who need help making a family.

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And while Ottawa-West Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld, chair of the Liberal women’s caucus, has said the bill fits with the government’s focus on supporting gender equality and reproductive rights, it is not clear how much support it will get from the Liberal caucus when it comes down to a vote.

Housefather did not say whether he had received assurances of support from the government when he announced his plans.

He did hint, though, that the talks he has had with caucus members so far have been positive.

“I’m hoping that just like the rest of our caucus who are not in cabinet and have shown great support for this law,” he said, “our cabinet colleagues will as well.”

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