Single Parents by Choice through Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Assisted human reproduction in Canada, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), egg donation, sperm donation and surrogacy, is governed by the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (the “AHRA”). For all of my complaints about the AHRA (and I have many), I recognize and appreciate how special it is that the Act begins with a section including a declaration by the Parliament of Canada that people who seek to use assisted reproductive technologies (or ARTs) must not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status. What that means (or should mean) is that ARTs are available to you whether you are single or married, gay, straight or transgendered. This may not seem like a big deal, but it sets Canada apart from other jurisdictions that take into account sexual orientation or marital status when it comes to family building. (For me, the AHRA starts out with this great bang and fizzles out from there).
While third party assisted reproductive technologies, such as egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donation and surrogacy, are lauded for their success in helping infertile couples build their families, they can also be used to help single men and women who choose to be single parents make this a reality. There are other ways for single men and women to build their families, including adoption or co-parenting, but for the purpose of this article, I am focusing on single men and single women choosing to become single parents through the use of ARTs.
Single Men: Single Fathers by Choice
Sorry, ladies. I know we usually go first, but I’m going to first address all the single men out there considering becoming single fathers. There are more out there than one might think and a paucity of information available addressing their concerns.
Although there isn’t a lot of information out there for single men who choose to become single parents through the use of ARTs, I can confirm that it is happening and I believe it will continue to happen more and more frequently.
Assuming your gametes are used, you are going to need the altruistic involvement of two other parties – an egg donor, and a gestational carrier. While it is medically possible for a woman to be inseminated with your sperm and to carry your child on your behalf (known as a traditional surrogacy), this is legally a dangerous proposition and few fertility doctors or fertility lawyers will agree to be involved in the process. In order to protect all parties involved, it is best to transfer embryos that are not biologically related to the surrogate mother to her uterus (this is what is known as a gestational carrier, or a gestational surrogate).
Cost for Single Fathers by Choice
Unfortunately, there are significant costs involved for single fathers by choice. Medical and legal costs will be incurred with respect to the donor egg process, as well as the embryo transfer to the uterus of the gestational carrier. Further legal costs will be incurred in obtaining legal parentage of the child born with the help of the gestational carrier. Further, while it is illegal to pay an egg donor for her eggs or a surrogate for her services, it is legal to reimburse both women for any of their costs incurred as a result of the egg donation and surrogacy. The law regarding egg donation and surrogacy in Canada is tricky so be sure to consult a fertility lawyer before you begin this process!
Single Women: Single Mothers by Choice
My, my times have changed! A few generations ago, it was the rare woman who took steps to get pregnant without a husband and raise a child alone. Many a modern woman, though, is making this choice.
If your eggs are viable and you are able to carry a pregnancy, you will only require the participation of a sperm donor. In Canada, it is illegal to purchase sperm from a donor or from a person acting on behalf of a donor. If you choose to use the altruistically donated sperm of someone who is known to you, be sure to work with a fertility clinic and a fertility lawyer; ARTs are not a do it yourself proposition!
Cost for Single Mothers by Choice
The cost for single mothers who do not suffer from infertility is far cheaper than it is for single fathers because artificial insemination or IUI is less expensive than is IVF. Where a known donor is used, though, legal costs may be incurred to draft a contract clarifying the rights and obligations of each party.
Why Do People Choose to Be Single Parents?
There is a lot of talk in the media that women wait too long to have kids, so they end up turning to IVF and other ARTs. While it’s true that our biological clocks are a huge factor in determining fertility, I don’t think it’s fair to put the “blame” for waiting to have children solely on women. In my opinion, the issues around waiting to have children are much more complicated than women being focused on their career, or having a lack of understanding about their declining fertility. But, I digress. Although in my experience, a substantial number of single parents by choice are those who have reached their 40s and have determined they are no longer willing to wait for the special person to come along to build their family, a person can choose to be a single parent as young as 18. The important thing, though, is the choice that these parents make; the choice to be a parent, first and foremost.
Sara R. Cohen, Fertility Law Canada
For more information, you can read more at http://www.fertilitylawcanada.com/. Please feel free to contact Sara R. Cohen directly at email@example.com, or you can follow her on twitter @fertilitylaw or on facebook at www.facebook.com/FertilityLawCanada
Note 1: This article is not meant to be relied on as legal advice. Personalized legal advice ought to be sought by a qualified fertility lawyer.
Note 2: Please also note that I am not a doctor and cannot provide medical advice.