New legislation to better support donor-conceived Canberrans

The ACT Government will today introduce legislation to improve protections for people who access, and are conceived via, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).

The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (2023) provides a legislative framework to regulate ART in the ACT. This will ensure providers continue to adhere to strong clinical and ethical standards in the delivery of their services by enshrining these responsibilities into law.

The Bill will also establish a donor register that will enable donor-conceived people to access information about their genetic heritage, including information about their parent/s’ donor should they wish.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the new legislation will increase confidence in ART services in the ACT and improve access to donor information.

“ART is increasingly being used by people of different genders, sexualities and family structures, including those experiencing infertility or genetic risks. It is important Canberrans have access to services that are easy to navigate, inclusive and culturally appropriate.

“This legislation will protect the rights of people who access ART and, importantly, establish clear rights for donors and donor-conceived individuals,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

The Bill introduces regulatory requirements for clinical practice by ART providers, including registration requirements, conditions around provision of clinical services, and requirements for gamete retrieval and embryo creation and storage.

Donor-conceived people will be entitled to access information about their parent/s’ donors from ART providers in the ACT. A new donor register will be created to provide people who are donor-conceived with easier access to information about their parent/donor, medical information and any siblings they may have.

“We have heard from donor-conceived individuals that they can experience barriers when trying to gain information, causing a lot of frustration and distress.

“Establishing a donor register will make it an easier and more streamlined process for people to access this information. We are also working to ensure donor-conceived individuals, their parent/s and donors can access support and information in a timely and sensitive way.

“The ACT Government has worked closely with specialists, advocates, and people with lived experience in developing this legislation, including Donor Conceived Australia and the three ART providers operating in the ACT. I want to thank all those stakeholders who have made important contributions by sharing their experiences and knowledge.”

“My colleague Dr Marisa Paterson has also played an important role in advocating for this legislation, and I thank her for her advocacy and leadership,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

The ACT donor register will be implemented across two stages. The first, established under this legislation, is a prospective register that will allow donor-conceived individuals conceived following commencement of the Act and their parent/s to access information about their parent/s’ donor, including identifying information.

Stage one will also include the establishment of a voluntary register that will allow for donor-conceived people and past donors to voluntarily register their details on the register.

The second stage will be implemented after further community and stakeholder consultation and will include a retrospective register for all donor-conceived people to access information about their parent/s’ donor, irrespective of when they were conceived or born, if those records still exist. This engagement and consultation will occur throughout 2024.

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

“The introduction of legislation for ART services in the ACT is a significant step forward in meeting the basic rights of donor-conceived people, intended parents and donors. This will ensure Canberrans can feel safe accessing ART treatment and know they are supported by law.

“DCA welcomes any legislation that legalises donor-conceived people’s right to access information and provides a mechanism to do so. Early and efficient acquisition of basic information about identity is paramount to managing mental and physical health and assists in normalising donor conception.

“The introduction of this legislation follows many years of advocacy by members of the donor conception community and brings ACT closer towards donor conception best practices already established in other jurisdictions around Australia.

“The donor-conceived community has been advocating for change for many years. We support progress towards removing shame and secrecy for our community and our families and encouragement of more openness and acceptance.”

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