Advances in fertility treatment have outstripped the law and this increasingly challenges traditional concepts of parenthood. For those who have struggled for years with infertility or never thought they could have a child, they can now conceive using a sperm donor, an egg donor, a surrogate (or a combination of these). This creates a key question: who is a parent?
Traditionally, parenthood followed biology. The woman who gave birth to the child was legal mother and her husband was the presumed legal father. However, it is now a far more complex question in assisted conception cases. As growing numbers of people embrace fertility treatment, cross borders, engage foreign surrogacy organizations and conceive with donor eggs and sperm the concept of parenthood can seem confusing and unclear. This challenges existing law and policy and has resulted in a a legal jigsaw puzzle that many struggle to make sense of.
Assisted reproduction and modern family structures challenge traditional notions of family. Increasing numbers of people are creating families through surrogacy, using a known donor who may have ongoing involvement with the family, through co-parenting arrangements or embracing family life as a solo parent. This raises questions about the legal status and role of the individuals involved and whether parenthood should be based on biology, intent, pregnancy and birth or social parenting.
The structures of modern families are changing and assisted reproductive technology is developing at a fast pace. The law has not kept pace with these developments and there needs to be greater understanding of the different pieces of the jigsaw that make up family building through assisted conception, sperm and egg donation and surrogacy. Only then, can we effectively tackle the question of parenthood and put effective law and policy in place.
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