Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Advertiser - "30 South Australian lesbian mums 'impregnated by same man" by Tony Shepherd

UNREGULATED sperm donation is leading to unusual situations in which the children of lesbians in Adelaide are mixing socially - creating a risk of incest.
One of South Australia's foremost experts in reproductive technology - Reverend Dr Andrew Dutney - says that in one reported case, about 30 lesbians were impregnated by sperm from one man.
The mothers then organised picnics with all the children, raising the fear they might socialise with their half-siblings without realising they are related.
In another case, a man's sperm was used to produce 29 children, most of whom are living in Adelaide. They do not know who their half-siblings are, raising concerns that in a "big country town" like Adelaide, they could accidentally commit incest.
In South Australia it has become standard practice to identify sperm donors, which has put men off donating through reproductive clinics.
Fertility treatments do not generally cater to homosexuals, because the law says it is only for infertile couples or those at risk of transmitting a serious defect.
These factors combine to push many people wanting children to seek help elsewhere - either through "turkey basters" or casual sex with friends or willing participants found online.
Assoc Prof Dutney, the former chair of the SA Council on Reproductive Technology and Associate Professor of Theology at Flinders University, says the SA regulations are at fault and should be repealed altogether, leaving reproductive medical units to comply with the national ethical guidelines.
He uses the anecdote of the "very generous" sperm donor to emphasise that when people are excluded from access to reproductive technology, it forces them to go it alone, and have children outside the normal system.
Those children were born about a decade ago, meaning they will be reaching adolescence in the next few years.
"The effect of our regulations here in SA is that they produce unregulated donor conception, whereas a system with a lighter touch would bring a whole lot more parents and children into the light," Assoc Prof Dutney said.
"The situation at the moment is that ... by adhering to the SA legislation, clinics have to be in breach of the national code.
"Under SA's legislation, anonymity is guaranteed while under the national code of ethics, the child's access to knowledge has to be provided."
A different man's sperm was used to produce 29 children, most of whom are living in Adelaide. Again, they don't know they are related.
Leonie Hewitt is the mother of one of the children in Adelaide from the second example mentioned above. She is also the spokeswoman for the Sydney-based Donor Conception Support Group of Australia.
She says people need to recognise the "human rights" of the children in all of this.
"There needs to be consistent national legislation," she said.
"We need to protect people who are conceived through donations whether in straight or homosexual families, we need to protect those children.
"We need national harmonising legislation that protects human rights."

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