13 APR 2019

Speech at Council of Europe on anonymous donation of sperm

Mr HOWELL (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) –

I start by saying how much I appreciated this report. I congratulate Ms De Sutter on the sensitive way in which she approached a very complex subject and on the careful handling she has given it.

I began by looking at this subject from a human rights point of view. There is a conflict between the human rights of the donor and of those who are being born from these processes. The report judges those different human rights and assesses them, coming to a perfectly reasonable conclusion. One good thing about it is that it shows that human rights are not static. They are not written down and kept the same for ever and ever; for example, they change as technology changes. The report also recommends that very good point. One recommendation that must be recognised here is that this should go to the Committee of Ministers.

In the UK, the rights of children born from these processes were recognised in 2005 and information is fully available at age 18. It is not, however, a straightforward issue. There is a need for counselling on many issues in finding out one's true biological parentage, which can be traumatic. In the UK, it is handled by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in a two-stage process with some information made available when the young person is 16 and most of it when they are 18. We must recognise that the donor needs careful counselling, too. I am very pleased that Ms De Sutter did not recommend that we should go back and allow anonymity across the whole process retrospectively. There are very good reasons for taking away anonymity; the main one that sticks in my mind is for public health reasons, particularly with the advances on genetic diseases. Finding out the inherited diseases that we may already have is crucial.

I do not underestimate the need for people to find out who they are. The report aims to show that this is an altruistic process, required because the parents desire a child and a family. If we hold that firmly in our minds, we will achieve a good result.

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