New laws to support the health and wellbeing of donor-conceived Canberrans

The ACT Government has today legislated increased protections for people who access and are conceived using assisted reproductive technology.

The Assisted Reproductive Technology Act 2024 requires providers in the ACT to continue their adherence to strong clinical and ethical standards. It will ensure Canberrans have access to culturally appropriate and inclusive services that better support the health and wellbeing of donor‑conceived Canberrans and their families.

Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA, said the Act provides greater confidence in assisted reproductive technology (ART) services in the Territory and improves access to donor information for donor-conceived Canberrans.

The legislation is the first stage of the ACT Government’s response to Donor Conceived Australia’s advocacy, which led to a motion from Dr Marisa Paterson MLA calling on the Government to regulate and improve access to ART services in the ACT. It introduces regulatory requirements for clinical practice by ART providers, including registration requirements, conditions around the provision of clinical services, requirements for gamete retrieval, and embryo creation and storage.

“This new legislation supports Canberrans who use ART to become parents, and donor-conceived individuals who need to access information about their parents’ donors in a timely and sensitive manner,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.

“ART is increasingly being used by people of different genders, sexualities and family structures, including those experiencing infertility and other genetic risks, so it is vital we ensure Canberrans can safely access appropriate services,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.

The legislation ensures donor-conceived Canberrans will be entitled to access information about their parents’ donors from their ART providers, and establishes a donor register for this purpose.

“A donor register will make it an easier and more streamlined process for donor-conceived people to access information about their parents’ donors, including genetic heritage and any siblings they may have,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.

“Supporting donor-conceived people to access this information can help contribute to better health and wellbeing outcomes by ensuring they have the medical and family history they need to make key health and life choices.”

This legislation establishes the first stage of the donor register, which will allow donor-conceived individuals conceived following commencement of the Act, and their parents, to access information about their donor(s), including identifying information.

This first stage will also include the establishment of a voluntary register that will allow for existing donor-conceived people and past donors to voluntarily add their details to the register.

The second stage will include a retrospective register for donor-conceived people to access information about their parents’ donors, irrespective of when they were conceived or born, if those records still exist. This will be implemented after extensive community and stakeholder consultation.

Quotes attributable to Aimee Shackleton, National Director of Donor Conceived Australia

“Donor Conceived Australia celebrates the passing of the Assisted Reproductive Technology Act 2024 today as a much-needed first step on the way to increased rights for all donor-conceived Canberrans, and to bring the ACT in line with other states of Australia.

“We are grateful the ACT Government has legislated to create a voluntary register enabling those who wish to make connections with family, and share vitally important medical information, to now do so in a safe and appropriate manner.

“The legal regulation of the ART industry is a necessary step for all those who access fertility treatment in the Territory and will help assure Canberrans that the industry is operating ethically and that they will be in safe hands while accessing treatment.”

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