The Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health
Brooke Claxton Building, Tunney’s Pasture, Postal Locator: 0906C
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9
Congratulations on your new portfolio. This is a vitally important area of Canadians’ lives and we pray for wisdom, discernment and courage for you as you oversee this ministry.
We welcome the review of regulations under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada cannot necessarily comment on the specific questions being considered, but wanted to take the opportunity to highlight key principles that should remain at the forefront of this review.
We believe human life must be valued, respected and protected throughout all its stages. This affirmation of the dignity of human life is shared by Canadians and reflected in our laws. As the Supreme Court of Canada stated in the Rodriguez decision, Canadian society is “based upon respect for the intrinsic value of human life and on the inherent dignity of every human being....”
Respect for human dignity involves treating human beings as human beings and not as objects to be bought, sold or bartered. This would preclude the commercialization of human reproduction and the patenting of human beings at any level.
The best interests of children must be paramount. Reproductive technologies are about conceiving, bearing and raising children. In approaching this review, we affirm that the children who are born as a result of the use of reproductive technologies are not commodities, but people. They are persons who will grow up in the context of their families and who will have the same questions about their origins and histories as many of us have.
While reproductive technologies offer hope, they also have the capability of exploiting vulnerable Canadians. Our faith calls us to care for and protect those who are vulnerable, with compassion for those who are infertile. Vulnerable people, such as infertile couples desperate to have a child or low-income women who may donate eggs or be a surrogate mother out of financial need, are at risk of exploitation through reproductive technologies. Protecting the vulnerable is another reason to preclude the commercialization of reproductive technology.
Some of these technologies change our understanding of what it means to be human, and the structure and understanding of families. Reproductive and genetic technologies create the potential for procreation to be deliberately shifted away from families and for family lines to be blurred. A surrogate mother carries and gives birth to a child in order to give it away. A family is created in order to be broken. Anonymous donation of sperm or eggs withholds from the child the possibility of knowing his or her lineage and biological relatives.
The implications and enforcement of the AHRA affect not only the individuals immediately involved in reproductive procedures, but Canadian society as a whole. It has influenced and will continue to influence social values and norms. It will also shape and perhaps alter relationships between citizens – parents, children, siblings and spouses.
Specifically, with respect to the regulations under review, we believe the purchase, barter or exchange of human gametes and embryos is contrary to human dignity.
As well, we strongly oppose commercial surrogacy. Throughout the development of the AHRA, it was clear that commercial surrogacy was to be prohibited. At the time the legislation was being considered, we expressed concern that the qualified language in some places might still allow practices that should be prohibited, such as the reimbursement of expenses to a surrogate mother and of donor expenses incurred in the course of donating sperm or ova. These very practices are being considered in the current review.
We question what degree of reimbursement makes it profitable for someone to act as a surrogate. Similarly, we are very concerned that reimbursement of donation-related expenses incentivizes donation.
It is critical that the screening of sperm and ova not communicate that the lives of Canadians living with disability or illness are of less value or not worth living. There are countless Canadians living with disability or illness who live full, meaningful lives, giving and receiving love, friendship and joy. We hold every human life to be of inestimable worth.
As Justices McLachlin, Binnie, Fish and Charron stated in the Supreme Court reference on the AHRA, “Parliament has a strong interest in ensuring that basic moral standards govern the creation and destruction of life, as well as their impact on persons like donors and mothers. The Act seeks to avert serious damage to the fabric of our society by prohibiting practices that tend to devalue human life and degrade participants. Overlapping with the morality concerns are concerns for public health and security which may be properly targeted by criminal law. These are valid criminal law purposes.”
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of evangelical Christians in Canada, established in 1964. Our affiliates include 42 denominations, 64 ministry organizations, 38 educational institutions and more than 700 individual congregations, as well as more than 15,000 supporting individuals.
We would be pleased to participate in further discussions and review of the AHRA.
Director, Public Policy
Author: Julia Beazley