(Debate, 16 March 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I speak in support of the Assisted Reproductive Technology Amendment Bill 2016, which will ensure that women who parent children born to their partner through assisted reproductive technology [ART] treatment can use the same donor as their partner even if the donor has already donated to five women. Currently there is a five women limit for successful ART treatment. This bill adopts the recommendations of the recent review of the Act for the "five women limit" to change to a "five families limit". This change is especially important to lesbian couples who both bear children in their family and want to use the same donor to provide bloodlines among their children. I also recognise the many same-sex parented families in my electorate who obviously contribute in a wonderful way to the community.
I have been contacted by two lesbian couples whose families have been impacted by the five women limit. In both situations, couples have commenced families and then not been able to use the same donor with the second partner because he has or may have reached the five women limit. It is important to the women in these families that their children share a biological link but they were excluded from this option even though, as a family with the same two parents, there is no risk of their children not knowing their biological link and unknowingly entering into a romantic relationship. In each case the couple reported significant emotional distress. The five women limit is discriminatory and unnecessary in the case of families headed by lesbian couples. I understand that families headed by heterosexual couples that use a donor can also be affected—for example, in the case of a man who is sterile and who remarries after the death of his first wife. All families should have access to the same donor in planning their families and I commend the bill for finally doing this.
The bill also creates new provisions for individuals who were conceived through donor gametes before the Act came into place and have had no rights to access information about their donor. The bill ensures these individuals can access de-identified information about their donor parent and provides a framework to do that through application either to the ART provider or to the Secretary of the Ministry of Health. There is an obligation on the ART provider to provide this information. I understand those conceived through donated gametes prior to 2010 are disappointed that the Government will continue to let ART providers manage records. They want a government-managed centralised electronic database because they do not trust ART providers, some of which have destroyed records, denying them access to their ancestry and genetic history. While the bill creates a new offence for the destruction of records, which is strongly supported, I understand why those wanting to access records do not trust ART providers and agree that the Government should manage all past records.
Those conceived through donated gametes prior to 2010 also want access to the identity of a donor, which is provided for in Victorian legislation in contrast to this bill which only provides for de-identified information. This is a sensitive matter and it is clear from the Minister's speech that the decision to provide de-identified information was an attempt to balance the wishes of donors who were promised anonymity when they made a donation and the wishes of individuals who were conceived under these circumstances. It is a difficult decision and, I understand, one that the Government has not taken lightly. I understand the concerns of individuals conceived—it is not their fault that a donor was unfairly promised anonymity—and I understand why they would want to learn more about who their donor is. Notwithstanding that, I also understand why the Government has chosen this path and maintained the anonymity donors were initially promised and I do not oppose that. I support the bill and I thank the Minister and her office for the consultation provided.
Read the full debate HERE